Auto execs hope for regulatory focus in U.S., EU talks

   As trade officials from the EU and the Trump administration are meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, auto executives expressed optimism that the bilateral talks could set the stage for a transatlantic trade agreement that offers strong regulatory alignment between the two regions.
   The regulatory talks, set to last through Friday, come after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Oct. 16 gave Congress a formal notification required by Trade Promotion Authority legislation of the Trump administration’s intent to negotiate trade agreements with the EU, Japan and the United Kingdom.
   “There was a lot of work that was done on TTIP [the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] and regulatory alignment, and our hopes are that that can be revisited and updated and that … we aren’t starting at ground zero here,” Ann Wilson, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) senior vice president for government affairs, said during a MEMA policy breakfast Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington.
   Formally launched in July 2013, TTIP negotiations moved at a slow pace before stalling in October 2016.
   There are regulatory issues that the auto industry can highlight for both governments as areas where progress can be made, said Ramzi Hermiz, CEO of Shiloh Industries Inc., a Wilmington, Del.-based global supplier of lightweighting, noise and vibration solutions for automobiles.
   But Hermiz acknowledged it could be very difficult to quickly align some U.S. and EU regulations, such as automotive test methods, safety requirements and emission requirements.
   “Part of what I’d like to see is … trust in the process, that we’re going to not always have to operate with a club in hand, so to speak, and we can demonstrate that the various countries will have momentum to solve these problems over a period of time, because it won’t happen overnight,” Hermiz said during the MEMA breakfast.
   Hermiz said he’d like to see more public assurances from the Trump administration that it won’t use tariffs as a negotiating tactic over the EU, which he added would give the automotive industry more certainty that talks are proceeding in earnest.
   The U.S. has left Section 232 duties on steel and aluminum in place against Canada and Mexico after the three parties concluded negotiations on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
   President Donald Trump agreed with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in July to hold off on Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on European automobiles as long as the two sides remained in negotiations to open trade between their territories.
   But according to several news reports, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week in Brussels said talks were not progressing fast enough.
   “EU and U.S. representatives will … exchange views on the issues that could be included in the future trade negotiations,” an EU spokesman said in an email to American Shipper. “These discussions are a preliminary and indispensable step for the commission to request a negotiating mandate from EU member states before engaging in formal negotiations.”
   The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative didn’t respond to an email from American Shipper.
   Hermiz emphasized the need for a sober approach by the U.S. as both parties move forward.
   “We’re starting to see action now from both sides, and we should be rewarding that process as we go along,” he said.