Recovery Seen For Europe's Industry | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: October 5, 2009

Recovery Seen For Europe's Industry

Business: But chemical executives warn of legislative obstacles to success
Department: Business
Keywords: CEFIC, Europe, REACH
Credit: Solvay photo
Credit: Solvay photo

The European chemical industry is showing tentative signs of economic recovery, but it is threatened by two European Union legislative initiatives. That was the message of executives who spoke at the annual meeting of the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) in Lisbon, Portugal, over the weekend.

Christian Jourquin, CEO of the Belgian chemical maker Solvay and current president of CEFIC, the main trade association for Europe's chemical industry, pointed to recent economic figures showing that recovery is beginning. At the same time, he said it will take years before the industry returns to the strong levels of January 2008. Jourquin is half-way through his two-year term as president of CEFIC.

"The European chemical industry is not out of the recession, but I have absolute faith that, provided with the right framework in which to operate, the chemical industry contains within itself the strength to overcome this challenge," Jourquin said in his mid-term speech.

That framework, however, is threatened by REACH, the EU's program for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals. CEFIC officials insist that the industry supports REACH, but they said its implementation is proving to be more complex than expected and that chemical users aren't getting the guidance they need from the new European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

"We are backing ECHA as much as we can… but there are limitations to what can be achieved by private organizations when guidance and support related to the regulation is insufficient," said Alain Perroy, the outgoing director general of CEFIC. He will be succeeded by Hubert Mandery on Nov. 1.

Mandery, for his part, warned that the European Emission Trading Scheme could develop into an additional burden for the industry if, at the end of the Copenhagen conference in December, there are no satisfactory commitments from other global parties. "Any unilateral burden on the industry in Europe will not help this region to stay competitive against emerging regions like Asia and Latin America," he said.

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