China’s new chemical management actions pave the way towards a detoxified world

May 2017 – China has stepped up its efforts to protect human health and environment from certain hazardous pesticides and chemicals both globally and nationally over recent years.

China was one of the first parties to submit import responses for all of the chemicals listed under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention (RC). In 2015, in a further show of progress to notify other countries over potential dangers, it submitted five notifications for Final Regulatory Actions (FRAs) for industrial chemicals that were banned or severely restricted by the government due to their potentially harmful effects. So far this year, it has made seven notifications for pesticides and one for an industrial chemical, with subsequent submissions anticipated. 

“The importance of China’s proven commitment to prevent the unwanted trade and exchange of information over hazardous chemicals cannot be underestimated. By submitting import responses and notifications, it plays an active part in promoting shared responsibility among nations. China has demonstrated its’ willingness to be a responsible trade partner,” said FAO Agricultural Officer for the Convention, Yun Zhou.  

The RC was initially inspired by a North-South dilemma in which wealthier countries with bans on certain life threatening chemicals continued to sell them abroad. The Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure gives parties the power to take informed decision as to whether they wish to import certain hazardous chemicals and exporting parties are legally obliged not to trade those chemicals contrary to the importing countries’ decisions. Sharing information through the Convention is widely viewed as key to letting other parties know which chemicals are regulated and why. It also allows less advantaged importing countries to learn by example on how to manage toxic chemicals throughout their life cycle.

Advancing environmentally friendly practices

China remains a major producer, user and exporter of pesticides and chemicals, and the government has continually pledged to invest resources and infrastructure to reduce their risks to humans and the environment. This engagement comes despite the challenges of juggling the need to maintain rapid economic development in a sustainable manner.

In November 2016, China’s Environmental Protection Ministry hosted a series of national training workshops, with the aim of strengthening science-based decision-making, in particular in relation to risk assessment capacities. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat and the European Commission (EC) have each pledged to maintain the momentum of the positive collaboration already initiated.

“We are in the process of formulating national chemical legislation which is fundamental for the reinforcement of the sound management of chemicals. At this very moment we are looking forward to receiving continued technical assistance from the RC Secretariat and to regular exchanges of policy and practices with developed countries,” said China’s newly appointed Designated National Authority (DNA) for the RC, Chief Engineer, Ding Qiong.

As the world’s most populous nation, with a strong economic growth over recent decades, China’s active participation in the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS) significantly contributes towards a detoxified world, the theme of this year’s Conference of the Parties (COPS 2017).

Earlier this month, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, took part in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, a meeting focused on the initiative called, "One Belt, One Road", which sets out to expand development and trade links between Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.

FAO believes that agriculture is not only important for generating sustainable livelihoods, but also essential for ensuring food and nutrition security, preserving natural resources and biodiversity, and for promoting rural development.

China supports FAO’s South-South Cooperation programme, which has benefitted over 30 countries and produced strong impacts in developing countries.

Establishing the necessary infrastructure and capacities to manage chemicals soundly is indispensable to ensuring similar successful partnerships are upheld.