The Long REACH of the EU

The Long REACH of the EU

Miller Op-Ed at National Review Online
December 11, 2005

The
European Union's Council of Ministers is expected to vote soon on the
proposed chemicals regulation called REACH, an acronym for
Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals. Before they
decide to burden faltering European economies with yet more unwise
regulation, they should digest the findings of Europe's Global REACH, a
study released recently by the Hayek Institute
in Brussels. It concludes that REACH will harm Europe and its trade
partners economically—and there is no convincing evidence of health or
environmental benefits.

REACH
would extend to all chemicals produced in or imported into Europe the
bogus "precautionary principle," which holds that if the evidence about
a product, technology, or activity is any way incomplete, it should be
prohibited or at least stringently regulated.

Potential risks
should be taken into consideration before proceeding with any new
activity or product, to be sure, whether it is the placing of a power
station or the introduction of a new flame retardant. But what is
missing from precautionary calculus is an acknowledgment that even when
technologies and products introduce new risks, most confer net
benefits—that is, their use reduces other, far more serious, hazards.
Vaccines have occasional side effects, for example, but they confer net
benefits. The danger in the precautionary principle is that it focuses
exclusively on the risks, which are often purely hypothetical, and
diverts consumers and policymakers from seeking possible solutions to
known, significant threats to human health. Its overall impacts may in
fact be net-negative.

The
costs of REACH's precautionary approach will be prodigious. The
European Commission's own estimates range up to 5.2 billion, but
according to a study produced by the Nordic Council, the price tag
could be as much as 28 billion. This higher estimate includes both
direct and indirect costs, and assumes that the latter may amount to as
much as 2.5 times the former. EUROS OR DOLLARS?

REACH's
supporters maintain that businesses can absorb this high price tag
easily, but the Hayek Institute analysis offers a very different view.
Its author, Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Angela Logomasini,
points out that cost estimates that are favorable to REACH are
incomplete, fail to consider a host of direct costs, and often
completely neglect the indirect costs.

Read the complete article at National Review Online.