Premium Beauty News - The latest market figures published by Cosmetics Europe show that sales of European cosmetic products have been stable in 2013 despite the difficult economic context, in particular thanks to the dynamism of exportations.
Bertil Heerink - Exports out of Europe have increased in 2013 and that was very good news considering the overall economic context and the value of the euro. That made us convinced that the quality of European cosmetics is still very much in demand all over the world. Despite the lack of dynamism of the European market, we can be quite proud of the performance of our industry in 2013. However, we have to be cautious, as a too expansive euro can be a risk. We have to watch the European competitiveness very carefully.
Premium Beauty News - Do you see current negotiations on a EU-US free trade agreement as a way to support this competitiveness or as a risk?
Bertil Heerink - It is good news! Actually, the representatives of the cosmetics industry on both sides of the Atlantic have developed joint proposals in order to simplify trade between the two zones. Few industries have gone as far as us. Removing unnecessary technical impediments will ease the transatlantic business. However, I want to stress the fact that our goal is not to lower the standards but to progress in the way of mutual recognition while keeping the same level of protection for consumers.
Premium Beauty News - As far as cosmetics are concerned, the U.S. and European regulation widely differ. Do you think it would really be possible to harmonise them?
Bertil Heerink - It is not our goal. For instance, I do not believe that the definition of products will be harmonised. The European definition is much wider than the US one. Nevertheless, there are several areas where progress is possible, in particular regarding testing procedures and technical requirements.
For instance, good manufacturing practices (GMP) for cosmetics makers could be harmonised based on an ISO standard. Testing requirements for the determination of the level of protection against UV rays and the Sun Protection Factors (SPF) could also be harmonised. We can also progress in the harmonisation of labelling requirements. In particular, divergences regarding the labelling of colour additives could be overcome. The more we can do in the way of regulatory alignment, the easier it will be for companies to adapt to local requirements.
Premium Beauty News - What about animal testing? It has been banned in Europe but is still permitted in the US.
Bertil Heerink - The European Union has been a pioneer in this field and animal rights NGOs strongly pressure policy makers in the US, Canada, Japan or Brazil to follow our path. As far as the European industry is concerned, our goal is to accelerate the validation of alternative methods and their acceptation by regulators worldwide. We also have to harmonise the different approaches of the animal testing ban in order to avoid unnecessary technical barriers to trade and unfair competition.
Premium Beauty News - How to achieve regulatory alignment without cutting back on consumer protection?
Bertil Heerink - We have to prepare ourselves to fresh thinking on how we can use free trade agreements not only to ease business and trade, but also to increase the level of consumer protection globally. The European Commission’s DG Health & Consumers has been very clear on this issue: progress in the way of regulatory harmonisation cannot be done through lower standards. The industry fully agrees with this approach.
Premium Beauty News - What are your other priorities?
Bertil Heerink - I would mention self-regulation, communication and China.
Self-regulation is a strategic issue, in particular as far as claims and advertising practices are concerned. It is the best way to protect consumers efficiently while guaranteeing enough freedom for innovation and competition. We want to set up a process where we can learn from each other in the common interests of both consumers and the industry. Our goal is that the principle of self-regulation, after discussion with consumers’ organisations, be accepted globally in the field of advertising.
We should also coordinate our communication about the products. Information is global now and when there is a safety concern in a major market it can quickly spread all over the world.
Eventually, China remains a priority to us. The country is in the process of building a new regulatory corpus for cosmetic products and we are cooperating a lot with Chinese authorities to avoid unnecessary barriers to trade while improving the level of consumer protection.