In Part 1 of this series, we examined an emerging new call from at least some sectors of the automaker community for less divergence between US and European (actually more or less worldwide UN) vehicle safety regulations. At DVN workshops and in other forums, there is broad agreement from most of us involved in specifying, designing, engineering, manufacturing, and testing vehicle lighting devices that the main impediment to regulatory commonisation—or at least enlarged windows of harmonisation—is not technical but political.
Ford's European Vice President for Governmental Affairs Wolfgang Schneider is right that market-specific technical regulations act as a non-tariff trade barrier. His confidence that the general industry regards this as a hindrance, however, may not be warranted; there are two sides to the sword. High-level company policy within at least some North American automakers has been very firmly and actively against any move toward internationalisation of the North American regulations, which are effectively used by automakers to control what vehicles do, don't, can, and can't be brought onto the North American regulatory island—and by whom. So while it is encouraging to see an automaker with US roots advocating for sensible reconciliation in technical standards, it is difficult to imagine the idea gaining much practical traction in the real world without high-level US executives signing on.
A cynical or skeptical analysis of this might lead to the conclusion that certain automakers are perfectly happy with the trade obstacles created by (and neatly hidden in, and defended in terms of) technical regulations. That might be a realistic analysis. But there are real, practical reasons—having little to do with the intensity of a turn signal or the requirement for a side turn signal repeater—why a US automaker or regulator might strive to reject internationalisation of the American regulations. It is vital for the technical sector of the community to understand why even the most thoughtfully balanced technical specification containing best practices supported by up-to-date science and knowledge might make no headway in replacing numerous older regionally-specific standards.
In today's world, those tariffs, local-content requirements, and other market protective measures that still exist—far fewer than twenty or thirty or fifty years ago—are frequent targets for elimination in the name of "free trade".