Report: REACH a primary trade barrier for SMEs exporting to EU.

Last week, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) released a report identifying the high costs of complying with REACH as one of the primary trade barriers affecting American small and medium enterprises (SMEs) seeking to export to the EU. Although SMEs account for as much as 35 percent of U.S. chemicals exports to the EU, the complexities and costs of REACH disproportionately affect SMEs, meaning firms with less than 500 U.S.-based employees. SMEs reported that REACH compliance could add over 20 percent to the cost of the product.

REACH’s testing requirements and the need for a special representative in the EU are reportedly particularly burdensome for SMEs. Other problems with REACH cited by SMEs include what firms consider to be excessive disclosure requirements, especially of trade secrets; the prohibitive cost of registering chemical additives; the difficulty of communicating with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA); and ECHA’s opaque rulemaking process. SMEs also reported that the Substance Information Exchange Forums (SIEFs) maintained under REACH “can hinder competition in that SMEs may have challenges accessing the necessary information and negotiating with the larger companies in the SIEF.” The report cited hearing testimony from the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) that the 2018 REACH deadline, applying the quantity threshold of just 1 metric ton per year, has already driven some companies to decide not to export to the EU market because of REACH’s costs and complexity.

In addition to REACH, the USITC report highlighted several other trade barriers facing U.S. SMEs exporting to the EU, including the Biocidal Products Regulation, the EU Cosmetics Directive, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. Challenges for SMEs dealing with these regulations reportedly include high compliance costs, increased product costs, expensive testing requirements, and lengthy certification processes.

The report, which was conducted at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative, was primarily based on information and statements collected from SMEs on a voluntary basis. The entire report is available for download here [PDF].