US firms in new attack on EU electronics plans

American Chamber of Commerce claims directives would create trade barriers, increase costs

The main association for US companies operating in Europe has made new criticisms of two EU draft directives aimed at reducing environmental impacts of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). In a statement released on Friday, the EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce claimed that both the electroscrap (or WEEE) directive and a directive restricting use of hazardous substances in electronic goods (ROS) would impede free trade.

The directives were unveiled by the European Commission in June (ENDS Daily 13 June). American firms have long been suspicious of the EU's plans in this area and two US trade associations earlier this year called on vice-president Al Gore to assist in defending American industry's interests against the EU (ENDS Daily 6 September).

In its new statement, the EU Committee claims that the ROS directive would be an explicit barrier to trade under World Trade Organisation rules because its proposals to end the use of lead and other substances are not based on full risk assessments. Danish plans to ban many uses of lead were recently criticised by EU scientific advisors (ENDS Daily 7 June), it notes.

The WEEE directive would also likely inhibit free trade, the EU Committee says, because its financial obligations on manufacturers "could create a disincentive for non-EU based" companies to enter the EU market. In a second criticism of the WEEE directive, the EU Committee argues that the law should be based on the EU treaty's market harmonisation article 95 and not the environmental protection article 175. The latter sets only minimum standards, so individual EU member states could introduce tougher rules implying "trade distortions," it says.

Follow Up:
EU Committee, tel: +32 2 513 6892.

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