Vietnam Provides Further Guidance on GHS Classification and Small Product Labeling for Chemicals

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January 9, 2018 - Nhat Nguyen

On 28 December 2017, Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) issued Circular 32/2017/TT-BCT on Requirements and Guidance on a Few Articles of the Chemical Law and Decree 113/2017/ND-CP on Specifying A Few Articles of the Chemical Law. The new Circular provides further guidance to Decree 113/2017 which came into effect on 25 November 2017 and nullifies many of the existing regulations on chemical management in Vietnam.
 
Specifically, the new Circular provides new guidance on GHS classification and labeling for chemical products in Vietnam. The Circular also specifies new forms and documents that must be submitted to the various agencies, as required by Decree 113/2017, which include chemical declarations and reporting, emergency plans, import and manufacturing declarations, etc.
 
The new Circular takes effect immediately. Chemicals and products which have already received prior authorization may be afforded a small transition period before having to comply with the new Circular.
 
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Vietnam began implementing the UN Globally Harmonization System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in 2008. Currently, most chemical products (substances and mixtures) must comply with the Vietnamese version of GHS. A small transition period is permitted for household insecticides and disinfectants (mid-2018) and plant protection products (2020).
 
In October 2017, MOIT issued Decree 113/2017/ND-CP, which took effect on 25 November 2017, with the intent to revamp the chemical management framework and system in Vietnam. The purpose of the revision was to simplify procedures and provide clearer guidance for businesses. This new Circular attempts to further provide guidance for compliance with Decree 113/2017/ND-CP.
 
GHS classification
 
Aligning with Decree 113/2017/ND-CP, Circular 32/2017/ND-CP permits companies to follow GHS classification and labeling based on the 2nd edition and later. This decision is in line with the message which MOIT announced at several public meetings that the ministry would allow businesses to pick whichever version of GHS is applicable for their purposes. For those who wants specific and exact classification classes and categories, Appendix 7 of the Circular includes guidance for which of these GHS items Vietnam has adopted. A review of Appendix 7 shows that these classes and categories are more aligned with the 6th revised edition of GHS. Thus, Vietnam's current GHS implementation appears to include more categories than previously. These categories include those for chemically unstable gasses, aspiration hazards and aerosols (category 3), etc. The Appendix also includes cut off values and classification methods used to classify mixtures of chemicals.
 
Labeling of chemicals
 
For the labeling of chemicals, companies must still follow the requirements outlined in both Decree 113/2017/ND-CP and Decree 34/2017/ND-CP on Labeling of Goods. This concept of dual labeling is reiterated in the new Circular. However, MOIT will now allow an exemption for labels which are too small to accommodate all of the labeling requirements. For containers and packaging with small labels, it is permitted to provide only the product (chemical) name, importer/manufacturer identification, and product origin on the label. All of the remaining information must be included in the safety data sheet or in another labeling area, as applicable.
 
Appendix 8 provides further instructions for how each of the labeling elements may be represented.
 
Safety data sheets (SDS)
 
While the new Circular also reaffirms the mandate that all chemical products must be accompanied by a safety data sheet and that companies must follow the general guidance under Decree 113/2017 and Appendix 9 of the Circular, companies are free to create a structure and order for the SDS. As such, companies are no longer constrained to a particular template for SDS. This decision is also consistent with the policy which MOIT has announced in other public forums.
 
Chemical declaration and reporting
 
Prior to importing chemicals, importers must declare the chemicals to be imported via the Single National Window. On January 15 of each year, companies or individuals trading or using chemicals must report their activities to the Provincial Department of Industry and Trade as well as to the national chemical management agency, Vinachemia.
 
The appendices provide relevant forms and reporting formats for accomplishing these requirements.
 
Revocation of existing regulations
 
In order to streamline the chemical management process and procedures, the new Circular revamps and in many cases revokes existing procedures. The new Circular revokes nine existing circulars and decisions and partially repeals provisions in four other circulars. As of 28 December 2017, the following circulars and decisions are revoked:
 
1. Circular 1/2006/TT-BCN on Guidance for Exporting, Importing Chemicals and Products Which are Toxic, Narcotic Precursors, and Other Chemicals under the Control of the Ministry of Trade;
2. Decision 40/2006/QD-BCN on List of Chemicals Which are Prohibited for Exported and Imported which are Issued in Parallel with Decision 05/2006/QD-BCN;
3. Circular 28/2010/TT-BCT on Specifying A Few Articles of the Chemical Law and Decree 108/2008/ND-CP;
4. Circular 18/2011/TT-BCT on Supplementing and Eliminating Administrative Forms Specified in Circular 28/2010/TT-BCT;
5. Circular 40/201//TT-BCT on Chemical Declaration;
6. Circular 4/2012/TT-BCT on Classification and Labeling of Chemicals;
7. Circular 7/2013/TT-BCT on Registration of Hazardous Chemicals for the Manufacturing of Industrial Products and Goods;
8. Circular 20/2013/TT-BCT on Emergency and Prevention Measures for Chemical Accidents in Industrial Processes;
9. Circular 36/2014/TT-BCT on Training on Chemical Safety and Issuance of Certification for Chemical Safety Training.
 
The new Circular also revokes the following provisions from several circulars:
 
Parts 6 and 7 of Article 1, and Article 2 parts 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 18 of Circular 42/2013/TT-BCT on Management and Inspection of Industrial Precursors;
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 of Circular 6/2015/TT-BCT on Revising, Supplementing Information on Administrative Forms in the Management of Chemicals, Electricity, and Purchasing of Products via Procurement Department;
Parts 2 and 3 of Circular 4/2016/TT-BCT on Revising, Supplementing of Administrative Forms and Procedures in the Trading of Electronic Goods, Chemicals, Manufacturing of Liquor, Transferring of Businesses, Purchasing Products and Goods via the Procurement Department for Goods, Energy, Food Safety, and Electrical Utility;
Article 1, parts 4 and 5 of Circular 27/2016/TT-BCT on Revising, Supplementing, Eliminating Forms Regarding Administrative Violations for Investment under the control of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
 
Transition period
 
Existing products on the market, or those prepared with labels to be circulated on the market, whose labels are in conformance with other laws and regulations prior to 28 December 2017 are permitted to be circulated on the market until its expiry date or until the product is no longer in circulation.
 
Chemicals and chemical products which have already received authorization will be permitted for use until the expiry of the relevant authorization or permit.
 
Companies which received authorization to conduct business prior to 25 November 2017 may continue to conduct the particular business until the expiry of such authorization. Once the authorization expires any time after 25 November 2017, a new authorization must be obtained based on the requirements under Decree 113/2017/ND-CP.
 
For chemicals which require declaration under Decree 113/2017/ND-CP and which are not on the list of chemicals in Appendix 1 of Circular 28/2010/TT-BCT and Appendix 2 of Decree 26/2011/ND-CP, companies must submit relevant documents to declare these chemicals within six months of the effective date of this Circular, or by 28 June 2018.
 
Business Impact
 
These requirements may pose some challenge for companies in the beginning. However, the Circular and Decree 113/2017 will hopefully provide companies with better guidance for how to comply with the chemical framework and management in Vietnam.
 
Manufacturers, importers and suppliers of chemicals in Vietnam should consult the Circular and ensure that their products comply with the various changes and requirements.

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