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Brussels, 1st July 2008

UN legislation for cars: 50 years of international automotive cooperation

Global technical harmonisation is a key factor in strengthening the competitiveness of the European automotive industry world-wide. The more we regulate at UN/ECE level, the better for European industry and the less EU legislation is needed. The 1958 Agreement of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) on technical harmonisation in automotive sector is celebrating its 50th birthday. The Agreement has resulted in some 126 regulations on issues relating to safety, environmental protection, energy efficiency and anti-theft performances of motor vehicles. For example, the UN/ECE agreement on electronic stability control enables manufacturers to develop only one vehicle design for the world market. In addition to avoiding divergent legislations and duplication of administrative procedures, one single standard at UN level also contributes to simplifying EU legislation. For example, the CARS 21 Group[1] identified 38 EC directives which could be replaced with international UNECE regulations.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry said: “In a global world, we need global rules. This is good for the competitiveness of our car industry, as replacing EU law with UNECE rules reduces red tape and industry can adapt faster to technical developments. This UN Agreement has been increasingly relevant as we have been moving to a global world. This is a model for successful international collaboration which needs to be copied by other industrial sectors.”

Having become a Contracting Party to the revised 1958 agreement in March 1998, the EU consolidated the close links that already existed between the directives of the EC and UN/ECE Regulations in the field of motor vehicles. This enables a European vehicle approved on the basis of a UN/ECE regulation to be accepted in many other countries. At present, there are 48 Contracting parties to this agreement including many countries outside Europe: Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Australia, etc.

In addition, a second agreement concluded in 1998 opened up the development of common technical standards with countries which are not contracting parties to the 1958 Agreement, including the United States, China or India. This strengthened the process of international harmonisation that takes place at the UN.

The accession of the EC to the 1958 Agreement on uniform technical prescriptions within the framework of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) and to the Global Agreement of 1998 give further impetus to the work underway on global regulations.

More information:

DG ENTR – Global Harmonisation – Vehicle Regulation: of Cooperation between the EU and the US National Highway Safety Administration

Another example of cooperation in the automotive industry at an international level is the Memorandum of Cooperation between the European Union and the US National Highway Safety Administration – NHTSA, signed last week as part of negotiations under the Transatlantic Economic Cooperation (TEC). Its goal is to affirm the joint commitment towards improving vehicle safety and fuel economy and to assist the harmonization efforts conducted under the framework of the 1998 Global Agreement of the UN/ECE.

For more information on the TEC

[1] The CARS 21 Group advised the Commission on promoting the competitiveness of the car sector

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