Getting Closer to the Target of Technical Harmonization in the ASEAN Region: AAF/TC3 and APWG


In Vol. 42 (Feb 2011) and Vol. 43, NFJ reported the issues of harmonizing technical regulations of automotive products (technical harmonization) in the ASEAN region. These issues were deliberated between the ASEAN Automotive Federation Technical Committee 3 (AAF/TC3) and JAMA vehicle certification/regulations/fuels experts. Among them, the main issues highlighted were: (1) the lack of adequate regulations on fuel quality that corresponds to vehicle emission regulations; and (2) the lack of consensus on the Technical Services (TS) and versions of 19 United Nation (UN) Regulations1 to be incorporated into the ASEAN Mutual Recognition of Arrangement (MRA).
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Getting Closer to the Target of
Technical Harmonization in the
ASEAN Region: AAF/TC3 and
APWG

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In this volume, NFJ provides a progress update of these issues by drawing upon the latest outcomes from the 15th AAF/TC3 meeting and its dialogue partner meeting with JAMA experts, held just this October in Brunei Darussalam, and also the 2nd Public and Private Joint Forum in Asian Region (16th JASIC2 Asia Government/Industry Meeting), as well as the Asia's Regulation and Certification Experts Meeting (RACE) held in Jakarta this November.

Brief background on the AAF/TC3 meeting and its dialogue partner meeting with JAMA
The AAF/TC3 constituted of members from all vehicle manufacturing countries and some non-vehicle manufacturing countries with auto-trade operations in ASEAN. One of the main priorities among AAF/TC3 members is the removal of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) by means of technical harmonization. Since it has been assigned as one of the two implementing bodies for technical harmonization in automotive products by the ASEAN Economic Ministers under the ASEAN Sectoral Integration Protocol for Automotives in 2004, it has actively held meetings twice a year to review current certification and regulation practices in the region. It also comes up with stances and recommendation to ASEAN authorities for further improvements in trade liberalization with safety and environment interests in mind (the other implementing body being the ASEAN Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality's Automotive Product Working Group: ACCSQ-APWG). The AAF/TC3 also regularly holds dialogue meetings with JAMA experts to engage in technical issues and brainstorming of ideas and solutions prior to its meeting. This year was no exception. The AAF/TC3-JAMA held their meeting prior to the AAF/TC3's 15th meeting in Brunei this October. It was the first time that both the AAF/TC3 meeting and its dialogue partner meeting were held in the sultanate, thanks to the kind support and hospitality from the Persatuan Peniaga Automobile Brunei (PPAB), also known as the Brunei Automobile Traders Association (BATA) in English.

¹Since the 155th Session of the United Nation's WP29 in November 2011, the UNECE Regulations was re-named as UN regulations.

²JASIC refers to the Japan Automobile Standards Internationalization Center under the transport ministry of Japan.




Issues of technical harmonization and progress

With regards to the progress on fuel issues, the AAF/TC3 members from the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore all made positive reports during the 15th meeting. They reported that their associations, with the support of JAMA fuel experts, had conducted dialogue meetings with concerned authorities, and each authority and its respective technical committee have agreed to consider the Euro 4 fuel specifications recommended by the AAF/TC3. The Euro 4 fuel specifications, along with other specifications for bio-fuels recommended by the AAF/TC3, have also been submitted to the ACCSQ-APWG―a government forum in ASEAN―for each member state's consideration. Last but not least, Thailand reported that its government will enforce Euro 4 fuel specifications that correspond to the AAF/TC3 recommendation from 1 January 2012. In view of the above positive developments, the AAF/TC3 is contented that their earlier recommendation to each ASEAN state to adopt Euro 4 emission regulations between 2012 and 2016 can be adhered. However, some of the AAF/TC3 members still think that continuous efforts are needed to convince their authorities to regulate all the fuel property items stated in the AAF/TC3 recommendation instead of just a few important ones like sulfur and benzene.

The toughest issue in technical harmonization remains to be the content of the ASEAN MRA draft, in which the consensus on the versions of the 19 UN regulations, the technical services, and product scope to be incorporated into the MRA have yet to be reached by member countries from both the AAF/TC3 and the APWG. Nonetheless, some progress was made during the 15th AAF/TC3 meeting, in which all of its members reached a consensus that the AAF/TC3 should recommend the APWG that the ASEAN MRA must not be limited to only automotive products manufactured within ASEAN, on grounds of the need for ASEAN to integrate into the global economy―a goal clearly specified in the ASEAN Blue Print. To avoid any unnecessary TBT, yet bearing in mind the needs of those who wishes to use TS in the ASEAN region, AAF/TC3 members also reached a consensus to recommend the acceptance of TS outside of ASEAN accredited by WP29 (the United Nation World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations) upon the full consideration of local needs. However, with regards to the version for the 19 UN regulations, all of the AAF/TC3 members, except delegates from Indonesia, could only agree on the latest version for five items in the 19 UN regulations to be incorporated into the MRA, under the condition of a two-year lead time for new models and another two years lead time for existing models from the issue date of an official gazette (the two plus two years lead time is a general guideline recommended by both AAF/TC3 and JAMA members that can be varied accordingly to each country's industry readiness). An auto-industry representative from Indonesia expressed that they would require further deliberation and informed of their stance on the versions of the 19 UN regulations at the next meeting.

The issue of diverging opinions among ASEAN Member States (AMSs) towards the versions of the 19 UN regulations was also raised in the 2nd Public and Private Joint Forum in Asian Region (16th JASIC Asia Government/Industry Meeting) recently held in Jakarta this November. During the Joint Forum, the Co-Chair of the APWG raised the question on whether there can be a "middle way" to resolve the different opinions on the versions of the 19 UN regulations for the ASEAN MRA.

With reference to the current United Nation WP29's mutual recognition agreement for vehicle parts and systems (the 1958 Agreement), in which the UN regulations are annexed to, reciprocal recognition of approvals can only take place among Contracting Parties (CPs) when the adopted UN regulations by the CPs are of the latest version. The rationale for such an arrangement is that it would be unfair to a CP that has adopted the latest UN regulations to accept approvals of an earlier version from other CPs. On the other hand, there are certain versions of the UN regulations that include requirements which may not be necessary for the tropical climate to adopt. For example, the 7-degree Celsius cold start test under the latest version of the UN regulation for emission. Some suggest that countries which are unable to adopt the latest version of certain UN regulations should adopt the appropriate version into their national type approval system (i.e. instead of certificates that are only available in its latest version to be used for homologation, test reports of earlier versions or test reports that exclude certain requirements from the latest version of the UN regulation will be used) for local needs, and at the same time accept the UN certificates of the latest version from other CPs. However, there is no way a CP which adopted such an appropriate version to have their approvals accepted by other CPs that have already adopted the latest version into their national law. The tension of such conflict has gained momentum since more Asian countries are considering the accession to the 1958 Agreement in the past decade. As a result, unsurprisingly, the WP29's Informal Group for International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA) is discussing ways to revise the 1958 Agreement to make it more attractive for Asian countries to accede.

In response to the APWG Co-Chair, a Director-General from the Enterprise and Industry European Commission commented that the "middle way" at the initial stage may be a feasible solution. Taking the UN Regulation for emission as an example, the EU representative suggested that while the Euro 4/5 emission regulation can be set as the ideal, the Euro 3 level emission regulation may be set as the minimum requirement for countries that are not ready to implement the Euro 4/5 emission regulation, till they are able to catch up. Although, ideally, the senior officer feels that the discrepancies should be settled in WP29. Citing from Europe's experience, he argues that as most of European countries were already CPs to the 1958 Agreement, and there is no distinction between automotive products manufactured within or outside of EU, these factors made it easier for EU to resolve the issue of diverging requirements among its member countries. In light of this experience, the EU representative encouraged ASEAN to solve the issue of diverging requirements among its members by acceding the 1958 Agreement and proposed the revisions to accommodate each of their needs, or participate as non-CPs to the WP29's Informal Group discussion on the 1958 Agreement revision, which is in its process to find ways to accommodate a different level of standards in the reciprocal agreement. It is often the testing methods or measurements rather than the limit values that are key to technical harmonization. The EU representative said that when the testing method is harmonized, it is easier to allow for different level of emission standards. To encourage the participation of Asian countries further, the officer reiterated that no fee is required for the accession to the WP29's agreement and/or participation to its informal group discussions.



The accession to the 1958 Agreement does not enforce CPs to adopt any UN regulations when they are not ready, but grants them the rights to amend the UN regulations. Participation to the IWVTA Informal Group discussion similarly has no obligations to be observed by participants, yet still allows them the opportunity to have their voice heard, and not be left out from international agreements. In other words, ASEAN's participation in the IWVTA Informal Group is the best way for the ASEAN MRA(for automotive parts) to link to an international MRA framework for whole vehicles, and not be left out from the global economy. Exclusion from international trade is indeed a priority concern to some Asian countries. For instance, during the same forum, an officer from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia expressed the importance of avoiding TBT between ASEAN and the rest of the international community when defining the product scope of ASEAN MRA. According to the same officer, the free flow of trade that benefits all would be more preferable by Malaysia. Similarly, at the RACE Meeting, which was organized by JAMA one day before the government-industry Joint-Forum to consolidate Asia's industry stances and recommendations to the forum, Asian industry members called for an "opened ASEAN MRA".

Incidentally, the IWVTA will be established around the same time as the ASEAN MRA in 2015. At the moment, JASIC holds the Secretariat office of the IWVTA Informal Group. The Joint-Forum encourages Asian members, including AMSs, to contact JASIC should they express interest in participating in the IWVTA Informal Group discussion, which is usually held one week prior to the WP29 Session in Europe.

Conclusion
The discussion and works done by the AAF and APWG have made progress in technical harmonization through regional forums and meetings. At the same time, with regards to the issues, in particular those under the ASEAN MRA, that have yet to be fully resolved, EU, Japan and some other major countries have been actively lending their support to ASEAN. Hopefully, with the continued support from these dialogue partners, the two ASEAN implementing bodies will be able to resolve the above mentioned issues as they get closer to the target date of completing the draft of the ASEAN MRA in 2012.

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