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Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
The Rotterdam Convention, a multilateral environment agreement, provides obligations on the import and export of certain hazardous chemicals. Signatory countries (including Australia) are empowered, through virtue of membership, to make informed decisions about the chemicals they want to receive, and to exclude those they believe they cannot manage safely.The convention's objective is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among parties in the international trade of these chemicals so as to protect human health and the environment, and contribute to the environmentally sound use of chemicals.
The objective of this Convention is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm and to contribute to their environmentally sound use, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties.
Main provisions of the Convention:
- The Convention establishes the principle that export of a chemical covered by the Convention can only take place with the prior informed consent of the importing party.
- The Convention establishes a "Prior Informed Consent procedure," a means for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing countries as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of specified chemicals and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting countries.
- The Convention also contains provisions for the exchange of information among parties about potentially hazardous chemicals that may be exported and imported.
- The Convention covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by parties and which have been notified by parties for inclusion in the PIC procedure.
- One notification from each of two specified regions triggers consideration of addition of a chemical to the list of products subject to the PIC procedure, these regions being determined by the Conference of Parties at its first meeting.
- Severely hazardous pesticide formulations that present a hazard under conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition may also be nominated for the PIC procedure.
Prior informed consent (PIC)
The PIC procedure applies to the chemicals listed in Annex III of the convention. For each chemical, a Decision Guidance Document is prepared and sent to all parties, with a request that they decide whether to allow the chemical to be imported. These decisions, known as import responses, are sent to the convention's secretariat.
The secretariat compiles the import decisions and circulates them to all parties every six months through the PIC Circular. The PIC Circular also contains information on national final regulatory actions to ban or severely restrict chemicals; proposals for hazardous pesticide formulations submitted by parties; a current list of chemicals subject to the PIC procedure; and a list of parties that have not provided import decisions.
All parties are required to ensure that chemicals subject to the PIC procedure are not exported contrary to the decision of an importing party. This means that a chemical will not be exported to a party that has indicated it does not wish to receive imports of the chemical. If the importing party has indicated it will allow import subject to certain condition(s), then the exporting party must ensure these condition(s) are met.
Opportunities for information exchange cover a broad range of chemicals, including those listed in Annex III of the convention and those that have been banned or severely restricted by any party. In addition, Article 14 mandates a general exchange of scientific or regulatory information 'relevant to the objectives of the convention' and of potential interest to regulators around the world.
Convention provisions provide opportunities to obtain information on potentially hazardous chemicals and to share information and experience with countries facing similar concerns. The most important tools for information exchange include the PIC Circular, export notifications, decision guidance documents, the network of Designated National Authorities and the Rotterdam Convention website.
Article 13 of the Rotterdam Convention outlines the information that is to accompany exported chemicals, both those included in Annex III and those banned or severely restricted for export. The purpose of Article 13 is to ensure information on chemicals is provided to importing parties to help them minimise risks to human health and the environment.
Specific requirements include:
Annex III_Chemicals subject to the prior informed consent procedure