from the putting-lives-in-danger dept
Back in February, we suggested that TAFTA/TTIP should really be called the "Atlantic Car Trade Agreement," or ACTA for short, since nearly 50% of the claimed boost to transatlantic trade that would accrue from TTIP consists of swapping vehicles between the US and EU. The claim was that, since cars made in the US and EU were equally safe, there was no good reason why they could not be sold on both sides of the Atlantic. According to an important article in The Independent, proponents of this view were so confident that US and EU safety standards were broadly similar that they commissioned a report to prove it, with the aim of using it to bolster the case for harmonizing car safety standards in TAFTA/TTIP:
The Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) sponsored the research, announced in a joint press release last year alongside the European car lobby ACEA and the American Automotive Policy Council.
So that there could be no question about the validity of the results, they asked some of the world's top people in the field to participate:
Independent experts from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the SAFER transportation research centre at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, carried out the study. They are two of the leading traffic safety research centres in the world. Experts in France and at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory were also involved.
Here's what the industry's report found:
The research actually established that American models are much less safe when it comes to front-side collisions, a common cause of accidents that often result in serious injuries.
The following is no surprise, then:
The findings were never submitted -- or publicly announced -- by the industry bodies that funded the study.
Putting a brave face on things, a spokesperson for the US Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told The Independent:
"There is much credit to be given for the historic efforts made in this study, and we fully support the methodology for comparing and analyzing U.S. and EU crash environments and vehicle performance. "
While the European car manufacturers association said:
"ACEA remains confident that regulatory convergence can be achieved in TTIP while maintaining the current high level of safety performance in both the EU and the US"
But the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), the independent organization that advises the European Commission and the European Parliament on road safety, is not so sure. Its executive director, Antonio Avenoso, is quoted as saying:
"This study shows that EU and US trade negotiators would potentially be putting lives in danger by allowing vehicles approved in the US to be sold today in Europe and vice-versa. … Clearly without much more research and analysis, including vehicle safety standards in the TTIP agreement would be irresponsible."
The trouble is, if car safety standard harmonization is not included in TTIP, there won't be the big boost to trade that is predicted to come from increased transatlantic vehicle sales. And without that big boost, TAFTA/TTIP's benefits, never very big in the first place, become even more negligible. Sounds like it's time to slam the brakes on ACTA….