The new EU Prior Informed Consent Regulation(PIC Regulation (EU) 649/2012)came into force on 16 August 2012. The Regulation is a recast of the previous PIC Regulation 689/2008, which implements at Union-level the global Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, which concerns the import and export of hazardous chemicals.

A key provision of the Rotterdam Convention, which was signed in 1998 and entered into force in 2004, requires industry to notify the relevant authorities of their intention to import or export any of the hazardous chemicals listed under Annex I of the Convention. The Rotterdam Convention was implemented in the EU by Regulation 689/2008 on the export and import of dangerous chemicals (the so-called "PIC Regulation"), which was amended several times. The new Regulation 649/2012 concerning the export and import of hazardous chemicals is a recast of the previous PIC Regulation. As far as exporters and importers are concerned, the new PIC Regulation will mean only a limited number of changes to the existing requirements. However, under the new PIC Regulation, ECHA will be required to transmit the notifications to all importing (non-EU) countries and to update and maintain a publically-available database of these notifications. The database will also include the explicit consent responses from the designated national authorities of third country importers, which register a state's consent to the import of an Annex I chemical.

The Regulation will not apply until 1 March 2014, from which point ECHA will be responsible for the administrative and technical tasks related to the new Regulation. At present the notification process is administered by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) via the European Database of Export and Import of Dangerous Chemicals (EDEXIM).

New Tasks

To prepare for the implementation of the regulatory framework, ECHA will have to recruit new staff and develop new IT tools. In future, ECHA will also be required to fulfil an important support role, as a source of technical and scientific guidance to industry, national authorities and the Commission, and as the manager of all communication related to the PIC Regulation.

It would seem that ECHA's workload continues to increase: as well as the PIC Regulation, ECHA is also already responsible for the REACH and the CLP Regulations and for the new Biocidal Products Regulation.