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Revision of the 1958 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Agreement Regarding the Regulation of Motor Vehicle Equipment and Parts

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Revision of the 1958 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Agreement Regarding the Regulation of Motor Vehicle Equipment and Parts

Christopher A. Hart
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
March 8, 1994


[Federal Register Volume 59, Number 45 (Tuesday, March 8, 1994)]
[Unknown Section]
[Page 0]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 94-5181]


[[Page Unknown]]

[Federal Register: March 8, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

 

Revision of the 1958 United Nations Economic Commission for 
Europe Agreement Regarding the Regulation of Motor Vehicle Equipment 
and Parts

AGENCY: National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: This notice announces that NHTSA and the U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA), on behalf of the United States Government, 
will participate in negotiations regarding a proposed revision to the 
1958 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) Agreement 
Concerning the Adoption of Uniform Conditions of Approval and 
Reciprocal Recognition of Approval for Motor Vehicle Equipment and 
Parts. The Agreement provides procedures for establishing uniform 
regulations regarding new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment 
and for reciprocal recognition of such regulations. Regulations adopted 
by Contracting Parties govern the approval of motor vehicles and 
equipment for sale in those countries.
    The United States is a member of the UN/ECE, but is not a 
Contracting Party to the 1958 Agreement. Depending on the outcome of 
these negotiations, it may be appropriate for the United States to 
become a Contracting Party to the Agreement as it may be revised. 
However, a decision has not yet made regarding that course of action.
    Notwithstanding the revised Agreement's goal of harmonization of 
motor vehicle standards, were the United States to become a Contracting 
Party, it would not adopt a regulation that would lower the level of 
protection provided by current U.S. domestic safety and environmental 
standards. Further, there would be no change in the process by which 
Federal Motor vehicle regulations are adopted and put into effect in 
the United States. These regulations would continue to be promulgated 
pursuant to legislation enacted by Congress and through rulemaking 
proceedings conducted under the Administrative Procedure Act and any 
other applicable statute. Thus, a regulation under the proposed 
revision to the 1958 Agreement could be adopted by the United States 
only if the relevant Federal agency complies with these requirements.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mr. Frances J. Turpin, Director, Office of International Harmonization, 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, room 5220, 400 Seventh 
Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590, telephone (202) 366-2144; or Mr. 
Thomas M. Baines, Senior Technical Advisor, U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency, 2565 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48105, telephone 
(313) 668-4366. Copies of the 1958 Agreement and of the proposed 
revision to the Agreement are available from Mr. Turpin or Mr. Baines 
upon request.
    Telephone inquiries addressing safety standard issues should be 
directed to Mr. Turpin and those concerning environmental standard 
issues should be directed to Mr. Baines.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice announces that NHTSA and EPA 
will participate, on behalf of the United States Government, in 
negotiations regarding a proposed revision to the 1958 United Nations 
Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) Agreement Concerning the 
Adoption of Uniform Conditions of Approval and Reciprocal Recognition 
of Approval for Motor Vehicle Equipment and Parts (the ``1958 
Agreement'' or the ``Agreement''). The Agreement is administered by the 
Working Party on the Construction of Vehicles (WP29), a subsidiary 
group of the ECE. Negotiations concerning the proposed revision of the 
Agreement involve countries that are Contracting Parties to the 1958 
Agreement and other interested countries, such as the United States.

The 1958 Agreement

    The 1958 Agreement provides procedures for establishing uniform 
regulations regarding new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment 
and for reciprocal acceptance of approvals issued under these 
regulations. Regulations adopted by Contracting Parties pursuant to the 
Agreement govern the approval of motor vehicles and motor vehicle 
equipment for sale in those countries. The Agreement was originally 
intended to address safety standards but has since been amended to 
encompass environmental (air and noise pollution emission) and energy 
standards. The United States is a member of the UN/ECE, but is not a 
Contracting Party to the Agreement.
    The goal of the Agreement and of WP29 is to promote harmonization 
of motor vehicle regulations and otherwise to facilitate trade in motor 
vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. The Agreement provides a 
mechanism of Contracting Parties to develop harmonized motor vehicle 
regulations, and for reciprocal acceptance of approvals issued under 
these regulations. The Agreement requires compliance with regulations 
through type approval (i.e., testing or witness of testing by a 
government-designated authority and government approval), the system 
generally used by European countries.
    Under the Agreement, any two or more Contracting Parties wishing to 
adopt a regulation may propose a draft regulation for annexation to the 
Agreement. The draft regulation enters into force as a regulation 
annexed to the Agreement with respect to each Contracting Party that 
has declared its intention to adopt it. A Contracting Party that has 
adopted an annexed regulation is allowed to grant type approvals for 
motor vehicle equipment and parts covered by the regulation and is 
required to accept the type approval of any other Contracting Party 
that has adopted the same regulation. Regulations under the Agreement 
are required to include test methods and conditions for granting type 
approvals.
    A Contracting Party may choose not to adopt any regulation annexed 
to the Agreement. The regulation would therefore have no effect on the 
Contracting Party. The Agreement also contains a mechanism for a 
Contracting Party, upon notice, to adopt a regulation after it has been 
annexed to the Agreement or to stop applying a regulation that it has 
already adopted. An amendment to an annexed regulation may be proposed 
by any Contracting Party that is applying the regulation. The proposed 
amendments may be vetoed, however, by the Contracting Party that is 
applying the regulation.
    The effectiveness of the 1958 Agreement is demonstrated by the 
integration of a single market in motor vehicles within the member 
States of the European Union (EU) and the fact that 23 European 
countries have become Contracting Parties, including 11 EU member 
States. Furthermore, the Agreement has led to the annexation of 
approximately 90 ECE regulations concerning passenger cars, light 
trucks, heavy trucks, trailers, mopeds and motorcycles, public service 
vehicles, and other vehicle types. These regulations have been adopted 
to varying degrees by the Contracting Parties.
    The major benefit of the Agreement has been harmonization of safety 
and environmental regulations relating to new motor vehicles and motor 
vehicle equipment in Europe. Over the past 36 years, numerous European 
national motor vehicle regulations have been used as the basis for 
establishing ECE regulations that have subsequently been adopted by the 
Contracting Parties pursuant to the Agreement and incorporated into 
their respective regulatory systems.The reciprocal recognition of type 
approvals among Contracting Parties applying the regulations has 
facilitated trade in motor vehicles and equipment throughout Europe. In 
recent years, the ECE/WP29 forum has been used to harmonize ECE 
regulations and EU Directives.
    The United States is a member of the ECE, and on this basis has 
been participating as a technical advisor in the work of WP29 and its 
subsidiary bodies over the past decade. By such participation, the 
United States has been able to keep itself informed about European 
motor vehicle safety and environmental regulatory developments. This 
participation has also encouraged a certain degree of compatibility 
among the technical standards contained in United States and European 
motor vehicle safety and environmental regulations. The United States 
and relevant European countries have fostered such compatibility while 
adhering to the substantive and procedural requirements of their 
respective regulatory systems. With respect to vehicle standards in the 
United States, these requirements include the National Traffic and 
Motor Vehicle Safety Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. section 1381 et seq.), 
the Clean Air Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. section 7401 et seq.), the 
Noise Control Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. section 4901 et seq.), the 
Motor vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. 
section 2001 et seq.), and the Administrative Procedure Act, as amended 
(5 U.S.C. section 551 et seq.).
    The United States has not, however, become a Contracting Party to 
the 1958 Agreement because the United States has not wished to incur 
the Agreement's reciprocal acceptance obligations nor develop its 
regulations in a common European regulatory development forum. One of 
the reasons for this position is that the Agreement is premised on the 
use of a type approval system for the regulation of motor vehicles and 
equipment. The United States relies generally on a self-certification 
system to regulate motor vehicle safety and noise, pursuant to statute. 
Under this system, the manufacturers are responsible for compliance 
with the applicable standards (subject to verification testing), but 
need not obtain a certificate of conformity before introducing vehicles 
into commerce. The United States air emissions regulatory program is 
based on type approval, since manufacturers must obtain a government 
certification of conformity to introduce their vehicles into commerce. 
However, the U.S. air emissions regulatory program is not compatible 
with the European system because responsibilities and authorities are 
assigned differently, including responsibility for testing vehicles, 
interpreting regulations, and issuing certificates of conformity. In 
addition, the U.S. air emissions program does rely to some extent on 
manufacturer test data, which is characteristic of a self-certification 
system.
    Conversion of these United States regulatory programs to a 
European-style system would require additional legislation. Such a 
change would not necessarily contribute to achieving current 
statutorily-mandated United States vehicle regulatory goals. Neither 
the relevant Federal regulatory agencies nor other interested parties 
have sought this change.
    If the United States were currently a Contracting Party to the 1958 
Agreement, the U.S. would have to invoke Article 1(6) of the Agreement, 
which allows a country to become a Contracting Party without adopting 
the regulations then annexed to the Agreement. This would be necessary 
because the United States is unable to adopt regulations under this 
Agreement in the absence of additional conforming legislation that 
resolves the conflict between the United States self-certification 
system and the requirement in Article 2 of the Agreement for a type 
approval system.

Proposed Revision to the 1958 Agreement

    Efforts are under way to revise the 1958 Agreement in ways that 
might make it appropriate for the United States to consider becoming a 
Contracting Party. The efforts began in 1989, when WP29 issued a 
mission statement announcing the goal of promoting worldwide 
harmonization of motor vehicle regulations. Participants in WP29 agreed 
that serious consideration should be given to revising the Agreement 
given the many changes that had occurred in the field of motor vehicle 
regulation since 1958, including the establishment of different vehicle 
standards programs in various countries around the world (e.g., the 
United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia), the accelerated rate of 
change in automotive technology and design, the globalization of the 
motor vehicle industry and market, and the creation of an integrated 
market among EU member states.
    In 1990, WP29 decided to develop a revised Agreement which would 
seek to promote worldwide harmonization of motor vehicle regulations 
and would encourage membership by other countries, particularly the 
United States, Japan, Canada, and Australia. This latter goal was to be 
accomplished primarily by revising the Agreement so that type approval 
would not be mandatory for Contracting Parties.
    One of the most significant changes under the proposed revision to 
the Agreement (the ``proposed revision'') would be to limit the 
application of the provisions regarding type approval to those 
Contracting Parties who choose to promulgate motor vehicle regulations 
on the basis of a type approval system. Thus, a type approval 
regulatory system would no longer be a precondition to a country being 
able to become a Contracting Party and thereby participating in the 
Agreement. Since a number of non-European countries are members of or 
participate in activities of the ECE, the possibility of these 
countries (including the United States) becoming Contracting Parties 
provides an opportunity to create a forum for promoting compatibility 
among motor vehicle regulations on a wider scale than currently exists. 
As Contracting Parties, these non-European countries would gain the 
right to vote and to propose new regulations as well as changes in 
existing ones.
    Other major changes contained in the proposed revision involve the 
procedures for annexing a regulation to the Agreement and for amending 
an annexed regulation. WP29 views the provision in the current 
Agreement allowing two or more Contracting parties to add a new 
regulation as an impediment to harmonization because the provision 
makes it too easy to adopt a regulation that is to be applied by only a 
small number of Contracting Parties.
    Conversely, the current procedures for amending a regulation 
annexed to the Agreement are considered to be burdensome because any 
one Contracting Party that has adopted the regulation has the right to 
veto the proposed amendment. This amendment process may impede the 
ability of the regulatory development process to respond to 
technological changes in a timely manner.
    The proposed revision would, on the one hand, make it more 
difficult for a new regulation to be annexed to the Agreement and, on 
the other hand, make it easier to amend an already-annexed regulation. 
The proposed revision to the Agreement provides for an Administrative 
Committee composed of all Contracting Parties. A proposed regulation 
would be ``established'' if \2/3\ of the Committee members present at a 
meeting so vote. (At least half of the total number of Contracting 
Parties would have to be present at such meeting for the vote to be 
taken.) All Contracting Parties would be notified of the Committee 
decision. The regulation would be considered adopted as a regulation 
annexed to the Agreement unless, within 6 months of such notification, 
at least \1/3\ of the Contracting Parties have communicated their 
disagreement with the regulation. If the requisite number of 
Contracting Parties did not communicate their disagreement in a timely 
manner, the annexed regulation would enter into force for all 
Contracting Parties that did not communicate their disagreement.
    The proposed revision also changes the way in which an annexed 
regulation may be amended. An amendment to an already-annexed 
regulation would be ``established'' if \2/3\ of the Administrative 
Committee members from countries applying the regulation present at a 
meeting so vote. (At least half of the total number of Contracting 
Parties that have adopted the regulation would have to be present at 
such meeting for the vote to be taken.) All Contracting Parties that 
have adopted the regulation would be notified of the Committee 
decision. The amendment would be considered adopted unless, within 6 
months of such notification, at least \1/3\ of the Contracting Parties 
that have adopted the regulation have communicated their disagreement 
with the amendment. If the requisite number of Contracting Parties did 
not communicate their disagreement in a timely manner, the amendment 
would be binding upon those Contracting Parties that have adopted the 
regulation and have not declared their disagreement with the amendment.
    The proposed revision also provides that, if at least 20 percent of 
the Contracting Parties that have adopted the regulation declare that 
they wish to continue applying the unamended regulation, the unamended 
regulation would be regarded as an option to the amended regulation and 
would be incorporated formally as such in the regulation. Further, the 
proposed revision allows countries to enforce more stringent standards 
than those contained in the annexed regulations by either electing not 
to adopt any particular regulation annexed to the Agreement, or, if the 
country has in fact adopted a particular regulation and has failed to 
have the regulation amended, by ceasing to apply the regulation upon 
one year's notice.
    In addition, while the Agreement addresses the regulation of 
``motor vehicle equipment and parts,'' the proposed revision to the 
Agreement provides for the regulation of ``wheeled vehicles, equipment 
and parts.'' The proposed revision, however, does not recognize other 
classes of products that are mobile sources of air pollutants, such as 
off-highway engines.

Possible U.S. Action Concerning the Proposed Revised Agreement

    The United States is considering whether it should become a 
Contracting Party to the proposed revised Agreement. In considering 
this option, NHTSA and EPA note that the Agreement does not explicitly 
recognize any regulatory and enforcement system (such as that of the 
United States) other than a type approval system, notwithstanding a 
provision of the proposed revision which implicitly gives a Party that 
adopts a regulation the option of electing not to implement that 
regulation through a type approval system. NHTSA and EPA believe that 
if the United States is to consider becoming a Contracting Party to the 
proposed revision, explicit recognition in the revised Agreement of the 
United States motor vehicle safety and environmental regulatory/
enforcement system is necessary so that regulations promulgated under 
the United States system would have a status equal to that of the 
European regulatory/enforcement system under the Agreement. It is 
unclear under the proposed revision what the relationship and 
obligations would be among those Contracting Parties that implement 
regulations through a type approval system and those Contracting 
Parties that implement the same regulations through other regulatory 
enforcement systems, such as a self-certification system.
    In addition, explicit recognition of non-type approval regulatory 
enforcement systems in the proposed revision could encourage countries 
that do not already have a regulatory system that addresses motor 
vehicle safety and environmental standards to consider adoption of one 
of those systems. If, as the proposed revision currently stands, only 
the type approval system is explicitly recognized, countries that 
currently do not have a regulatory system would be more likely to 
respond in either of two ways. They would be likely to adopt the type 
approval system or to develop completely novel systems. If the former 
occurs, the type approval system could become so widely adopted that 
there would be increasing pressure on countries using other regulatory/
enforcement systems to convert to a type approval system. If the latter 
occurs, there could be a proliferation of different novel regulatory/
enforcement systems.
    As with all United States regulations, a regulation under the 
proposed revision to the Agreement could not be adopted by any Federal 
agency unless there is domestic legislation to authorize such adoption 
and the agency follows the rulemaking procedures of the Administrative 
Procedure Act (APA) and any other applicable statute. Since the APA 
requires the appropriate Federal agency to solicit and consider public 
comments in promulgating regulations, the United States cannot agree in 
advance to adopt a proposed or annexed ECE regulation as a final rule.
    Thus, if the United States were to become a Contracting Party to 
the proposed revision, the United States could not accept a regulation 
proposed for annexation by other countries unless the regulation is 
identical to a regulation already adopted by the United States or is 
proposed and adopted through the United States rulemaking procedures 
described above. It would therefore vote against ``establishment'' of 
the regulation, indicate its disagreement with the annexation of the 
regulation, or elect not to adopt the regulation in the event of 
annexation. Further, notwithstanding the fact that the Agreement is 
being revised to promote compatibility of motor vehicle standards, the 
United States would not adopt a regulation that would lower the level 
of protection provided by current U.S. domestic safety and 
environmental standards.
    Under the revision as proposed, the United States would probably 
not be able to have its regulations adopted by Contracting Parties and 
annexed to the Agreement. The United States could not propose a 
regulation for annexation unless the regulation is identical to a 
regulation already adopted by the United States. The test procedures in 
United States regulations are premised partially or wholly on a self-
certification system and therefore, unless a self-certification system 
were explicitly recognized in the proposed revision to the Agreement, a 
U.S. safety regulation would, in all likelihood, not be accepted by the 
requisite number of Contracting Parties. This is because the regulation 
might not be enforceable through a type approval system. However, 
explicit recognition of other enforcement systems could, for example, 
allow for different enforcement options within an annexed regulation. 
For air and noise pollution emissions regulations also, the regulatory 
systems of the current Contracting Parties are also sufficiently 
different from the U.S. systems so that the current Contracting Parties 
would not be likely to accept regulations proposed by the United States 
for the same reason.

    Issued on: March 2, 1994.
Christopher A. Hart,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-5181 Filed 3-3-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-M

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