Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent
September 22, 2004
Mr. President, this week, seventy-four nations are meeting in Geneva at the first Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides. This important international agreement establishes a legally binding framework that requires exporters of listed substances to secure informed consent from governments of importing countries prior to any shipment of such chemicals. Simply put, the Convention recognizes and incorporates the basic principle of right-to-know with respect to trade in hazardous chemicals. As such it marks yet another positive step in the direction of a comprehensive international approach to chemicals management. Unfortunately, the United States is not yet a party to the Convention, and thus will not be at the table this week when important decisions are made regarding organization, scope, and future direction. Earlier this week, for example, the parties agreed to add fourteen new chemicals to the Convention's list of substances requiring informed consent. Because we are not a party, the United States did not participate in that decision. Lest one think this is an exceptional case, the Rotterdam Convention is one of three important international agreements on chemicals that the United States has signed but so far failed to ratify. The two other agreements - the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the POPs Protocol to the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution - ban or severely restrict the production and use of some of the most hazardous chemicals in existence. Both agreements have entered into force, and preparations are being made for the first meetings of the parties. Yet, the United States is not on board. Although our Government played a leading role in negotiating all of these agreements and despite the fact that the United States is a signatory to each, the current Administration along with the leadership in Congress has so far failed to move the necessary implementing legislation that would allow the United States to become a party. Such legislation involves the work of four different committees in the Congress. To date, however, only the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has reported a bill, which I co-sponsored with Senator Chaffee. This bill provides a reasonable and effective approach to meeting our current obligations under all three of these agreements, while also providing a robust mechanism for accommodating future decisions of the parties. I would urge my colleagues to follow our lead and swiftly enact sensible implementing legislation. The United States cannot afford to sit on the sidelines any longer. Thank you.