From June 1 to November 30, 2008, manufacturers have the opportunity to register under REACH, the EU program of Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals. Failure to do so may result in having a product banned from the EU. So says Joe Acker, president of the Synthetic Organic Chemicals Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), according to the latest issue of ICIS Chemical Business (June 2-8, 2008, pp 14-15).

Non-EU chemical manufacturers have been slow to realize the effect of REACH regulations.  According to the ICIS article, Acker explains that 8,000 to 10,000 chemicals now sold into the EU may be pulled back. The reason is that many low profit specialty products will be discontinued owing to the expense of registration and manpower needed to manage compliance. 

EU manufacturers are facing the grim prospect of yet more regulatory compliance expense added to their portfolio of products.  This kind of expense only reduces competitiveness for EU manufacturers.

Suppliers who elect to discontinue supply of specialty products will leave users of these materials in need of a new supply or face the shutdown of the end use.

To add to the pain, REACH authorizes the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to charge for registration, updates, appeals, and most maddeningly, charge an extra fee for confidential disclosures.

My lament here is not that I am hoping for a chinese night market of chemical sales to the EU. My lament is that REACH seems likely to accelerate the chemical deindustrialization of the EU. The uptick in petrochemical raw material costs unfortunately coincides with the startup of REACH and the paper storm that it will cause. It is very bad timing.