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Rotterdam Convention

Lead Editor
Maria M. Williams

Lead Author
Maria M. Williams

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (PIC)


The Rotterdam Convention promotes shared information and responsibility in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals. Under PIC, importing countries should receive shipments of banned or severely restricted substances only after they have had an opportunity to make an informed decision. As of November 2010, a total of 40 chemicals are subject to the PIC procedure: 25 pesticides, 11 industrial chemicals and 4 severely hazardous pesticide formulations. The Convention establishes a process for listing new chemicals. PIC has 112 parties, not including the US. A full list of the chemicals is available here.


The Rotterdam Convention grew out of voluntary information-exchange programs developed in the 1980s by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). By the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, Governments and environmental organizations had concluded that mandatory controls should be applied to the trade of some chemicals and pesticides. Governments meeting in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, subsequently adopted the Convention on 10 September 1998. It entered into force on 24 February 2004.

Objectives of the Convention

The objective of this agreement is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts between exporting and importing countries for managing chemicals that pose significant risks in order to protect human health and the environment. It also seeks to encourage the environmentally sound management of these chemicals when their use is permitted and to provide and share accurate information on their characteristics, potential dangers, and safe handling and use.

Major Provisions

The Convention covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by Parties and that meet the specifications of the Convention. The Convention requires that a chemical or pesticide must be banned or severely restricted by two or more countries in two regions of the world.

Annex I specifies the information that must be contained in the notice of control action.

Annex II specifies the criteria by which the action is evaluated for inclusion.

Annex III is a list of all those chemicals that have been included. Severely hazardous pesticide formulations that present a hazard under conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition may also be nominated for inclusion in Annex III.

Annex IV contains the information requirements and the evaluation criteria.

Annex V contains information requirements for export notifications required by the Convention.

Annex VI outlines process for settlement of disputes under the Convention.

The current substances listed are shown on the Rotterdam Convention website.

What is the PIC Procedure?

The PIC procedure, along with information exchange, is one of the key provisions of the Rotterdam Convention. For each chemical listed in Annex III of the Convention a decision guidance document (DGD) is prepared and sent to all Parties with a request that they take a decision as to whether they will allow future import of the chemical. The resulting decisions on future import of these chemicals (import responses) are published by the Secretariat and made available to all Parties every six months through the PIC Circular.

If a member country - generally referred to as a State party - decides not to import a particular chemical or pesticide covered by the PIC procedure, other State parties agree not to export this product to that country. If a country decides to limit the import of a chemical to certain uses, exporting countries agree to respect those limits.

Other Information Provisions

In addition to the PIC Procedure itself, the Convention also includes:

  • the requirement for a Party that plans to export a chemical that is banned or severely restricted for use within its territory, to inform the importing Party that such export will take place, before the first shipment and annually thereafter;
  • the requirement for an exporting Party, when exporting chemicals that are to be used for occupational purposes, to ensure that an up-to-date safety data sheet is sent to the importer; and
  • labeling requirements for exports of chemicals included in the PIC procedure, as well as for other chemicals that are banned or severely restricted in the exporting country.

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Environmental Protection Agency: Regulating Pesticides, International Agreements and Treaties

Rotterdam Convention official site

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