Chemical Dialogue

The chemical industry is a cross-cutting sector that contributes to most industrial and many non-industrial sectors—its products are widely traded across borders, and it is a key economic building block in APEC economies.

The Chemical Dialogue (CD) serves as a forum for regulatory officials and industry representatives to find solutions to challenges facing the chemical industry in the Asia-Pacific region. It reflects APEC members' recognition of the importance of engaging with the private sector and of building public-private dialogue and cooperation for the benefit of both sectors.

The issues that are addressed include chemical sector liberalization, chemical trade facilitation and capacity building.

The CD also focuses on improving regulatory policies and practices. It seeks workable programs which ensure that regulatory, safety, and environmental goals can be implemented by both governments and businesses.

The CD’s primary goals are articulated in its 2011–2013 Strategic Framework, which was endorsed by APEC Ministers in 2011, and which were recently updated. In 2016, the three shared goals around which the framework and the Dialogue’s work were reviewed.

The CD endorsed a revised version of the framework at the CD’s 17th meeting in Lima, Peru (CD17), to govern its work from 2017 to 2019. The revised framework is organized around the following three revised shared goals:

  • To facilitate trade by expanding and supporting regulatory cooperation and mutual recognition in the region
  • To promote understanding of the chemical industry’s role as a provider of innovative solutions for sustainable economic, environmental and social development
  • To enable effective cooperation between industry and governments to improve chemical product stewardship and safe use

The CD has maintained its focus on regulatory cooperation efforts throughout its tenure.  Following a series of workshops in 2016 and 2017, the CD focused on next steps in 2018—such as additional capacity building for priority items resulting from in-person meetings. The CD will host four technical webinars for CD member economies in 2018–2019 on the following topics:

  • Regulatory impact assessments in the chemical sector
  • To evaluate comments received during public consultations on chemical regulation implementation or revision
  • Principles-based chemical regulation
  • Tools for collecting exposure information to enable implementation of risk-based approaches to chemical management

 Last page update: October 2018

Current Activities

The Chemical Dialogue (CD) continues to discuss ways to contribute to APEC's overarching goals of trade liberalization and business facilitation.

The CD program 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.

The CD also continues to put emphasis on the integration of its work with the international chemicals agenda, including the United Nation’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

Capacity Building for the Risk Assessment of Metals and Metal Compounds

A self-funded project for APEC Risk Assessment Training on Metals and Metal Compounds (CD 01 2014S) provided intermediate-to-advanced training on the risk assessment of metals and metal compounds for the APEC regulatory community.

It covered topics such as the key characteristics unique to metals and metal compounds (bioavailability, human and environmental chemistry, fate and transport) and risk assessment methodologies.

The project comprised of:

  • 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.

In the Third Senior Officials Meeting (SOM3) in 2016, the CD provided an update on the outcomes of the above-mentioned workshop. Since the workshop, there have been three technical webinars hosted on Web-Ex, a tool which the CD may use more in the future.

Participants were provided with an online survey which found that the goal of increased capacity building had been largely achieved. 

Overall, the project outcomes focused on recommendations for further training at an economy or regional level, building on the collaboration with the Mining Task Force, disseminating the learnings from the workshop, and further leveraging resources available from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (or 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.

In February 2014, at a meeting in Ningbo, China, the CD agreed to work towards a more coordinated and cohesive approach to promoting the GHS. Since then, led by Australia, CD members would work together and update each other on the status of implementing the GHS in APEC economies.

Clearinghouse Website for GHS Labelling

Responding to the needs of the chemical industry, the CD created a website in 2010 that collects and provides GHS-standardized labelling elements in local languages: the website is called the GHS Reference Exchange and Tool, or G.R.E.A.T.

Authorities and stakeholders in the chemical industry can find translations of labelling terms for hazard communication and international trade purposes. Industry stakeholders and interested users will also be able to search for elements on the website and prepare their own labelling in different local languages.

As of January 2014, the GHS labelling elements on the website were provided in 34 languages from 11 member economies—including Australia, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei—and in 23 languages from EU members. 

The latest language updates include Bahasa Indonesia and simplified Chinese. The website has received over 60,000 visits, predominately for viewing the labelling elements in different languages.

The CD continues to manage and update the G.R.E.A.T. website. In the first quarter of 2017 it introduced a new version, reflecting changes agreed to at SOM1 2016.

The CD also encouraged member economies to share GHS-related updates as well as ideas on ways to expand or better utilize the website.

Virtual Working Group on Regulatory Convergence and Cooperation

In May 2012, at the Chemical Dialogue meeting in Kazan, Russia, 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, given 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 with the OECD, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (AEAN), and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia.

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

In the Third Senior Officials Meeting of 2018, the CD Regulator’s Forum encouraged member economies to provide ideas for potential topics to be included in the Regulators’ Forum 2019 Work Plan, which will be endorsed by the end of 2018.

Marine Debris

The CD continues its partnership with the Oceans and Fisheries Working Group (OFWG) to promote innovative solutions to marine debris.

The CD supported the project proposal for APEC (through the OFWG) funding to be used to update a 2009 study on the economic impacts of marine debris and to promoting the further implementation of the 2016 Policy and Practice Recommendations on Overcoming Barriers to Financing Waste Management Systems. 

The CD endorsed a 2018 work plan for the Virtual Working Group on Marine Debris which includes the following points:

  • To continue the group’s partnership with ABAC and the Finance Ministers Process and hosting Asia Pacific Infrastructure Partnership meetings on incentivizing investment in waste management systems and developing a pipeline of bankable projects, the results of which were presented at the 2018 Finance and Central Bank Deputies Meeting;
  • To support the aforementioned concept note with the OFWG;
  • To continue to contribute to APEC-wide discussions on urbanization, infrastructure, sustainable materials management and the circular economy.

The CD is working with the OFWG, the U.S. Department of State, and the Trash Free Seas Alliance in organizing the APEC Marine Debris Stakeholder Meeting: “Improving Data and Coordination and Developing New Partnerships,” which will be held on 2–3 November 2018 in Bali, Indonesia.

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Achievements

Chemical Dialogue

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.

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.

APEC Training Workshop on the Risk Assessment of Metals and Metal

This project comprises a workshop and technical webinars.