|Vol 7, No.14, 5.4.01, p3
SWEDEN is trying to persuade its European partners to ban the marketing of new animal-tested cosmetics, despite concerns that the measure could fall foul of international trade rules.
The move comes after Euro MPs voted on Tuesday to maintain an existing marketing ban, due to be implemented next year.
MEPs decided by a 295-176 margin to reject a European Commission proposal to replace the existing plan to end sales of new products with an EU-wide ban on animal testing itself. Critics said companies would simply conduct the same experiments outside the Union.
Now EU presidency-holder Sweden has called in its own trade officials to reassure other governments who fear they could end up breaching international trade obligations.
"We're trying to get a marketing ban which will be acceptable to all concerned," said a Swedish official.
A ban on new animal-tested products could be compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. She added: "It very much depends on how it's formulated."
Denmark is the only country so far to have joined Sweden in backing a marketing ban, which would not affect products that were already on the market when it came into force.
While France, Spain and the UK are thought to be very sceptical, animal campaigners are hoping for support from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.
Despite hard industry lobbying right up until Tuesday's vote, German Socialist MEP Dagmar Roth-
Behrendt won a solid majority for her draft position giving companies just five years to develop alternatives before all new animal-tested cosmetics are outlawed.
Cosmetics firms claim to have spent €500 million in five years on research into non-animal testing, which also benefits other sectors including detergents and chemicals. Industry leaders are dismissive of the prospect of a WTO-compatible marketing ban.
"That's simply dreaming," said Robert Vanhove, secretary general of the European cosmetics industry group COLIPA.
"The WTO rules are very clear," he said. "Manufacturers in third countries will see this as a barrier to trade."
Vanhove sees signs of a shift in MEPs' opinions towards his industry's arguments, possibly heralding a more favourable result at the Parliament's second reading.
"The Swedish presidency is making a mistake by trying to impose its own views at this stage," he said.
But animal welfare association Eurogroup says that even if a WTO dispute was launched, it would allow time for a compensation settlement reflecting the damage to industry.
"Their losses would be tiny," said Marlou Heinen of Eurogroup. "It's not as if you're banning all cosmetics - only the new ones with ingredients tested on animals. The bottom line is that we've already got enough cosmetics ingredients to last forever. Do we really have to kill more animals so that we can have new ones?"
Sweden is trying to persuade its European partners to ban the marketing of new animal-tested cosmetics, despite concerns that the measure could fall foul of international trade rules.
|Business and Industry