On 13 September 2006, the EU notified the WTO's Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (the "TBT Committee") that it will shortly be adopting three new Decisions in the framework of Directive 2002/95/EC on the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS).
The TBT Committee, which normally convenes three times a year, is required to be kept informed of new barriers to trade in the form of technical regulations that WTO Members adopt and which may affect imports from other Members' territories. It is also a forum providing Members with the opportunity to comment on such barriers, frequently with a view to dissuading the notifying Member from adopting them.
In this case however, it is certainly unlikely that any Member will be dissuading the EU from adopting the Decisions in question. That is because they all introduce exemptions to the framework RoHS Directive, which as Hong Kong's electrical appliances industry will know only too well, bans the use of six substances in goods that function via an electrical current. As from 1 July this year, all homogenous materials found within these goods put onto the EU market must contain no more than 0.1% by weight of lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, PBB and PBDE and no more than 0.01% by weight of cadmium -- that is to say, unless the goods are subject to one of the applicable exemptions.
Such exemptions can be found in the Annex to the RoHS Directive. This Annex is amended from time to time, as and when the Commission adopts new exemptions, pursuant to requests from industry followed by recommendations from an independent institute and discussions with the EU-25's national RoHS experts. The new draft Decisions add 9 exemptions to the Annex of the RoHS Directive: 8 for lead (amongst which is 1 for cadmium combined with lead) and 1 for hexavalent chromium.
Thus, draft Decision 1 lays out the following exemptions:
"In the Annex to Directive 2002/95/EC the following points 21 to 27 are added:
'21. Lead and cadmium in printing inks for the application of enamels on borosilicate glass.
22. Lead as impurity in RIG (rare earth iron garnet) Faraday rotators used for fibre optic communications systems.
23. Lead in finishes of fine pitch components other than connectors with a pitch of 0.65 mm or less with NiFe lead frames and lead in finishes of fine pitch components other than connectors with a pitch of 0.65 mm or less with copper lead-frames.
24. Lead in solders for the soldering to machined through hole discoidal and planar array ceramic multilayer capacitors.
25. Lead oxide in plasma display panels (PDP) and surface conduction electron emitter displays (SED) used in structural elements; notably in the front and rear glass dielectric layer, the bus electrode, the black stripe, the address electrode, the barrier ribs, the seal frit and frit ring as well as in print pastes.
26. Lead oxide in the glass envelope of Black Light Blue (BLB) lamps.
27. Lead alloys as solder for transducers used in high-powered (designated to operate for several hours at acoustic power levels of 125 dB SPL and above) loudspeakers.'"
Draft Decision 2 lays out the following exemption:
"In the Annex to Directive 2002/95/EC the following point 28 is added:
'28. Hexavalent chromium in corrosive preventive coatings of unpainted metal sheetings and fasteners used for corrosion protection and Electromagnetic Interference Shielding in equipment falling under category three of Directive 2002/96/EC (IT and telecommunications equipment). Exemption granted until 1 July 2007.'"
Finally, draft Decision 3 lays out the following exception:
"In the Annex to Directive 2002/95/EC the following point 29 is added:
'29. Lead bound in crystal glass as defined in Annex I (Categories 1, 2, 3 and 4) of Council Directive 69/493/EEC'".