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EU's proposed EDC restrictions criticised by US and Australia

Published On Nov. 17, 2017 By Sharad

The World Trade Organization(WTO) have received a complained from the US and Australia against EU's hazard-based proposal to regulate endocrine-disrupting substances(EDCs) in biocidal and plant protection products will harm international trade. The US went a step further, arguing that the proposals could violate a WTO agreement on agricultural sanitation measures.

European Commission's pending EDC proposal for plant protection products, has been vetoed in the European Parliament on 4 October. The action was based on objections to provisions that would exempt some substances with endocrine-disrupting properties from the criteria. On 8 October the US and Australia submitted documents to the WTO say that the EU appears to be moving toward stricter criteria that would lead to even more substances being classified as EDCs, and subsequently banned.

The US and Australia, along with Canada, have argued since the EU began consultation in 2014 that a hazard-based approach to regulating biocides and pesticides labelled as endocrine disruptors would have a significant impact on agricultural trade. The US acknowledged the EU's position that its "legal framework mandates the establishment of hazard-based criteria," but said this does not "relieve the EU of meeting its obligations under the WTO TBT or SPS Agreements".

EU proposals violate the Technical Barriers to Trade(TBT) agreement's requirement that technical regulations are not more trade-restrictive than necessary argued the latest US statement, as well as the WTO agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) governing health-based restrictions on agricultural imports. "For these reasons, we urge the EU to consider seriously the concerns" voiced by WTO members "as it moves forward with its next steps in establishing criteria to identify and ultimately regulate substances with the potential to disrupt endocrine systems".

Risk-based exemptions urged by Australia, as the EU to adopt risk based derogation elements as a concurrent consideration with the criteria components of it's EDC proposal. "The risk-based elements of the derogation align with the scientific, risk-based regulatory approach of Australia and other key trading partners. This will ensure that safe chemical use can continue as part of modern, sustainable agricultural practice, and trade is not unnecessarily restricted."

A statement submitted by European Commission in July suggesting that EU legislation precludes establishing maximum residue levels (MRLs) and import tolerances (ITs) "for substances banned due to the hazard-based cut-off criteria", troubled the both countries.

The US said, producers are concerned that they will no longer be able to export products to the EU if MRLs for banned substances are set at default levels. And this would not only adversely impact agricultural producers and consumers, but would also harm EU food importers and manufacturers who source ingredients from third countries.

A "2016 independent analysis" estimated "damage to US exports" at nearly $5bn and "global trade damage" at over $75bn, the statement said.