By Daniel Stern—DVN General Editor
TTIP, TPP, CETA...there are enough new and pending international-trade treaties these days to make a big cauldron of alphabet soup from their titles. The details of automotive provisions of trade pacts like this don't tend to get much attention in the popular press. Nevertheless, there's a bustling and important conversation ongoing, as well there should be. What might a treaty like TTIP—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—mean for vehicle lighting? More specifically: despite decades of effort and progress toward harmonisation, there still remain substantial differences between the UN vehicle lighting regulations in Europe and the US regulations used in North America. There probably will remain such differences for the foreseeable future, for a variety of reasons we looked at previously in a three part series. So given that, how might these differences be productively wrangled in context of TTIP? What does the vehicle lighting community need to be thinking and talking about with regard to trade pacts presently being negotiated?
A central principle being aimed for, at least nominally, is "mutual recognition": the idea that although US and European vehicle safety standards are different, they achieve functionally comparable levels of safety performance. There's some merit to that idea; while each set of standards has its relative strengths and weaknesses in terms of what's required (and therefore performed) by a set of headlamps, a turn signal, a seat belt, a mirror or whatever other component or system, overall there is no pattern suggesting that EU-spec cars are generally safer than US-spec cars or vice versa. But there is data showing that some of those relative strengths and weaknesses might be big enough to matter.