By  on March 4, 1994

WASHINGTON -- The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association has asked the Clinton administration to pressure Japan to streamline its cumbersome regulatory process for cosmetics.

In a letter sent this week, Louis Santucci, the CTFA's vice president of international affairs, asked Ira Wolf, an assistant U.S. trade representative, to "consider adding the cosmetic industry to any list of industries that you suggest to the Japanese government as targets for deregulation."

A spokeswoman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative would not comment on Santucci's letter and said it is not known when the two countries will resume talks.

U.S. cosmetics firms occupy 10 percent of the Japanese market, Santucci said. The Commerce Department estimated that market at $14.7 billion in 1992, the latest year for which such a figure is available, with a 3 percent annual growth rate.

The Japanese government, under fire because of the huge trade imbalance, has pledged to deregulate a number of sectors to make it easier for other countries to do business there. But Japan's regulatory process often keeps items off store shelves for months and sometimes years after it enters other countries.

Estee Lauder's Fruition, for example, appeared in Japanese stores in January. It was introduced in the U.S. in spring 1993 and launched in other countries one to two months later.

According to Rochelle Bloom, senior vice president and general manager of Estee Lauder International, deregulation would likely help get such products on the market sooner.

The delay in getting items in Japanese stores stems from the requirement that ingredients receive "pre-market" approval. This sometimes means extensive testing even when the ingredients are widely sold in other countries with no harmful effects, Santucci said.

Bloom noted that Estee Lauder tries to avoid any controversial ingredients by reformulating some of its products especially for sale in Japan, a process that generally takes between six and 12 months.

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