Product policy warning shot fired at EU

US firms in Europe call for measured introduction of IPP, no new wave of legislation

American firms operating in Europe have warned the EU that it will hamper innovation and trade if it introduces a wave of new legislation under the banner of an integrated product policy (IPP). An IPP should work "within the present legal framework" and with the grain of the market, the EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce says in a statement sent to EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström.

The statement coincides with European Commission efforts to draft a green paper on an EU-level IPP, sparked by a debate between EU environment ministers this spring (ENDS Daily 10 May). The paper should have been published this autumn but is not now expected to appear before spring 2000.

According to the EU Committee, an EU-level IPP could provide a more coherent framework for existing environmental measures and play a valuable role in achieving sustainable development. But a number of key principles should be respected if an IPP is to achieve its positive potential, the association says.

Product policies should take a life-cycle approach, but should not give too great a prominence to the specific tool of life-cycle assessment (LCA), which "is not yet sufficiently developed from a scientific point of view," the EU Committee argues. An IPP should also be applied in a horizontal way rather than by industry sector, it says, warning that "prioritising some industries could create a negative effect among those selected, increasing the opposition to an IPP at EU level".

Shared responsibility must underpin an IPP rather than strict producer responsibility, the association continues. Each actor in a product chain should be involved; producers should only be made responsible for environmental impacts "that are under their management control or which they can reasonably be expected to influence".

An IPP should stimulate industrial innovation, the EU Committee argues. State-sponsored ecolabelling schemes, as well as greener public procurement rules, "create barriers" to innovation. "Substance bans must be the last recourse," it adds. The paper also argues against requirements for minimum content of recycled materials, citing them a "clear violation" of the need for compatibility with World Trade Organisation rules.

On risk assessment and the precautionary principle, the EU Committee demands that risk retains a central role and says that precautionary action should be "transitory," while waiting for more accurate scientific answers.

Follow Up:
EU Committee, tel: +32 2 513 6392.

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