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Industry Analyzing U.S., EU Auto Safety Standards

Executive Summary

The study is designed to help negotiators establish mutual acceptance of auto-safety standards in the trade agreement, rather than try to blend EU and U.S. technical regulations.

BRUSSELS – Automotive-industry organizations from both the European Union and the U.S. are conducting a study of the equivalence between safety standards of vehicles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Study results will be available by year-end, Scott Schmidt, manager for vehicle-safety regulations-U.S. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Assn. announces in Brussels.

Speaking in front of EU and U.S. negotiators for a Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership free-trade deal, at an event organized as part of the fourth round of trade talks taking place this week, Schmidt says the first phase of the industry-commissioned study will end in April.

“We are working very hard to finalize the first phase, which is the methodology and data analysis to make sure we understand how to approach this and that we have data available for it,” he says.

“We need to look at how the vehicle produced in the EU would perform when subjected to U.S. conditions and vice versa,” Schimdt tells the negotiators, adding researchers are studying elements such as the risk of involvement and risk of injury in a crash.

Final results of the study are expected to help negotiators establish mutual acceptance of auto-safety standards in the trade agreement, rather than try to blend EU and U.S. technical regulations.

“For the future, we want to drive harmonization. For the present, we are looking at how we can establish equivalence,” says Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of ACEA, Europe’s leading automaker trade group, speaking at the same event.

Automakers strongly support making the trade-partnership negotiations successfully establish technical equivalence of regulations on both sides, starting with safety matters.

Such a coming together of the EU and U.S. sectors also could provide a counterbalance to the rise of China as the current No.1 global player in terms of production and sales, Jonnaert says. The EU is the second-biggest producer of vehicles, followed by the U.S. The situation is reversed for sales, with the U.S. No.2 worldwide and the EU third.

Auto-related trade accounts for about 10% of total trade between the U.S. and EU. Together, the regions account for 32% of global auto production and 36% of sales, according to ACEA.

“We see our exports increasing to the U.S. over the past years. We are currently exporting about €35 billion’s ($48 billion) worth; the U.S. is exporting €11.9 billion’s ($1.66 billion) worth to the EU,” Jonnaert says, noting the two regions combined represent 36% of global automotive economic activity.

 “More than a third of the gains in bilateral trade (between the U.S. and EU) lie in the auto sector, so it’s extremely important that we get (the trade deal) right in terms of the auto sector,” says Matthew Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council says.

Also speaking at the event in Brussels, Blunt says agreement on auto-safety standards would benefit not only the automotive industry on both sides of the Atlantic, but also consumers. Eliminating the need for detailed certification would bring models to European and American markets that are not there today, giving more choices to consumers.

Such an agreement also would facilitate more rapid adoption of new technologies related to safety and environmental standards, Blunt adds.

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