The Chemical Dialogue (CD) continues to discuss ways to contribute to APEC's overarching goals of trade liberalisation and business facilitation.
The CD program of work focuses on the challenges imposed by different approaches to regulation, including the difficulty in balancing the protection of trade secrets and confidential information with the need for transparency, facilitating data exchange, and the varying regulatory approaches to the treatment of chemicals in articles. The CD also continued to emphasise the integration of its work with the international chemicals agenda, including the UN’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).
Important CD activities include:
Capacity Building in the risk assessment of metals and metal compounds
The self-funded project APEC Risk Assessment Training on Metals and Metal Compounds (CD 01 2014S), provides intermediate-to-advanced training on the risk assessment of metals and metal compounds for the APEC regulatory community, covering such topics as key characteristics unique to metals and metal compounds (bioavailability, human and environmental chemistry, fate and transport) and risk assessment methodologies.
The project comprises:
- Phase 1: a 1.5-day workshop held in August 2015, documenting and discussing risk assessment approaches developed by APEC economies and non-APEC entities, illustrated by case studies; and
- Phase 2: the development of ongoing training materials in early 2016.
Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is an internationally agreed-upon system, created by the United Nations. It is designed to replace the various classification and labelling standards used in different economies by using consistent criteria for classification and labelling on a global level. At the Chemical Dialogue meeting in Ningbo, China in February 2014, it was agreed that the CD involvement in GHS activities would be analysed with a view to achieving a coordinated and cohesive approach to the CD GHS work and future activities. Led by Australia, CD members will work together to update on the status of implementing GHS in their economies.
Clearinghouse Website for GHS Labelling
Responding to the needs of industry, the CD created a GHS Reference Exchange and Tool G.R.E.A.T.clearinghouse website in 2010 that collects and provides GHS standardized labelling elements in local languages. Authorities and the chemical industry can find translations of labelling terms for hazard communication and international trade purposes. Industry and interested users will also be able to search elements on the website and prepare their own labelling in different local languages.
As of January 2014, GHS labelling elements in different languages provided on the website continues to grow up to 34 languages from 11 member economies including Australia, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei, and 23 languages from EU members. The latest updates include Indonesian language version in Bahasa Indonesia and simplified Chinese. The website has received over 60,000 visits, predominately for viewing and applying the labelling elements in different languages.
Virtual Working Group on Regulatory Convergence and Cooperation
At the Chemical Dialogue meeting in Kazan, May 2012, members agreed to establish a Virtual Working
Group (VWG) on Regulatory Convergence and Cooperation. The main aim of the VWG is to examine how the work of the CD could contribute to the broader APEC agenda for regulatory cooperation. The VWG has been exploring areas of collaboration with the APEC Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance and their work on green buildings and good regulatory practices. The VWG is also undertaking a study to identify potential areas for further cooperation on regulatory work at the OECD, ASEAN, and ERIA. In addition, a framework for comparing regulatory systems is being developed by the Russian Federation and a case study is currently being prepared by New Zealand on their chemicals management system.
Chemical Dialogue Regulator’s Forum Meeting
The Chemical Dialogue Regulator’s Forum is currently implementing the Action Plan adopted in Medan, Indonesia in 2013. Activities include capacity building for risk assessment on metals and metal compounds led by Australia and increased collaboration with the OECD Clearing House on New Chemicals. The next Chemical Dialogue Regulator’s Forum meeting will be held in Beijing in August 2014 as part of the Third Senior Officials Meeting.
Website for Emergency First Responders
The Dialogue continued developing and expanding a website for emergency first responders (http://global.chemtrec.com) that provides first responders with resource information from APEC economies to facilitate rapid response to chemical incidents, endorsed by Ministers in 2012.
The CD has been active in promoting implementation of the United Nation's Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) by APEC member economies. The GHS is a set of guidelines aimed at simplifying regulations and labelling requirements, as well as improving safety and environmental protection. Over the years the CD has conducted numerous workshops to provide economies with information on the GHS and to build capacity to facilitate its adoption.
In 2008, APEC Ministers endorsed the report of the CD's Virtual Working Group on GHS implementation issues entitled Developing Clarity and Consistency in the Implementation of the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals as an APEC contribution to the UN's Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The SAICM is a policy framework aimed at promoting chemical safety around the world and is an initiative of the United Nations Environment Program.
APEC has also shown regional leadership by contributing the ground-breaking APEC Best Practices for Chemical Regulation to the SAICM. The guidelines were formulated by APEC officials and industry representatives and endorsed by APEC Ministers.
Representatives of the CD presented the Best Practices for Chemical Regulation and the GHS Virtual Working Group reports to the second session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2009.
The CD is also addressing APEC member economies' and regional manufacturers' concerns about the potentially trade-distorting effects of the European Union's system of Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation. The CD has undertaken to coordinate APEC engagement with the EU on these issues, and in 2008, the CD endorsed and transmitted to the European Commission a set of questions and letters on REACH implementation.
APEC Training Workshop on the Risk Assessment of Metals and Metal Compounds
The Workshop was successfully held on 28-29 August 2015, in the margins of the SOM III meetings in Cebu, the Philippines, with 57 trainees from 15 APEC economies and three non-APEC economies. The Workshop identified several key differences in the assessment of metals and metal compounds compared with the traditional risk assessment for organic chemicals. These were:
- The different physicochemical properties of metals and metal compounds intimately affect their toxicity and bioavailability to organism – hence these properties must be well characterised by the assessor;
- The specific physicochemical properties of environmental media in turn impact on the physicochemical properties of metals and metal compounds – hence, the local chemistry of environmental media needs to be profiled when determining the toxicity and bioavailability of metals and metal compounds; and
- As many metals are essential for life, the different sensitivities of local environmental organisms need to be profiled in order to accurately determine the toxicity of metals and metal compounds under local conditions.
The Summary Report of the Workshop is available from the Downloads Section of this page, and the workshop documents are available in the APEC Meetings Document Database.
Chemical Dialogue Regulators' Forum
To support and complement the work of the CD, a Chemical Dialogue Regulators' Forum has been established with regular meetings commencing in 2009. The objectives of the Forum are to:
- Facilitate risk reduction and the sound management of chemicals across the APEC region and as an APEC contribution to broader implementation by the UN's Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM);
- Share information and knowledge on chemicals management more broadly in the region with the increased and direct involvement of regulators;
- Bridge principles and practice - sharing tools and experience with best practices and plan opportunities for collaboration to address common concerns; and
- Discuss the nexus between chemicals management and competitiveness (including for small and medium enterprises), with a view to facilitating trade while protecting human health and the environment.
The Strategic Framework contains three shared goals: (1) expand and support cooperation and mutual recognition among chemical regulators in the region to facilitate trade; (2) enhance understanding of the chemical industry’s role as an innovative solutions industry; and (3) encourage chemical product stewardship, safe use, and sustainability. Chemical regulators routinely participate in the work of the Chemical Dialogue, especially through its Regulators Forum.
The work items in the revised CD Strategic Framework and the current action items include the following:
- To establish a multi-party virtual working group to develop a concept note on conducting a Chemical Management Best Practice Seminar;
- To involve participation of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) in the CD meeting in 2012;
- To establish a virtual working group to develop case studies for GHS implementation for consumer products;
- To explore options to refine the reporting template to be placed on G.R.E.A.T. website;
- To draft a concept note for an industry workshop and the CD regulators’ forum and training workshop; and
- To encourage member economies to provide case studies for use in Rio+20 and SAICM.