APEC's Chemical Dialogue has developed two reports for endorsement by APEC Ministers - the first on principles for best practice chemical regulations, and the second on issues associated with the implementation of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The implications of such an endorsement would affect businesses and private entities alike.
"If the principles for best practice chemical regulation are adopted, it will make intra and inter-regional trade easier," explains Shane Baker, Manager of the Chemicals Regulation Reform Section of the Australian Government's Innovation and Industry agency. "Goods and services should be cheaper - both in terms of the cost to businesses and to consumers."
Aside from cost, he says: "Unreasonable regulation stifles innovation. The price of introducing new chemicals can be prohibitive. The expense of things like different testing and packaging requirements can discourage their release - even if they are greener and better than those currently available."
The GHS report identifies ways to ensure that the GHS is implemented in a clear and consistent manner. The Government Co-Chair of the Chemical Dialogue noted that implementation of a harmonized labelling scheme for chemicals could cut costs significantly for businesses, which otherwise might have to use different labels to describe the same chemical product depending on the export market. Essentially, she says, the GHS will harmonize both format of the labels and the information that must be included on them.
While it seems relatively straight forward, the move to implement GHS will inevitably be met with numerous challenges.
"It's actually quite complex," explained Mr Baker. For example, requirements for labelling of small quantities sold to consumers may be different to that for industrial use, as the risks involved may be quite different.
"The challenge is to achieve a system that is harmonious but which is still relevant." And that would mean benefits for all, businesses and consumers"