WASHINGTON-The U.S. and Mexico are progressing toward compromise on a Mexican government rule which greatly hinders the ability of U.S. tire makers to sell their products in Mexico. That rule, issued last year by SECOFI, the Mexican Commerce Department, requires that tire safety information be molded in Spanish on all imported tires.
It also requires all tires sold in Mexico to be tested and certified for safety in Mexican facilities.
There is no way of knowing how many U.S. tires were prevented from entering Mexico because of the SECOFI regulation, according to Peter J. Pantuso, vice president of public affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
``We heard some reports of tires being turned away at the Mexican border,'' Mr. Pantuso said. ``But it was more a case of if you didn't have Mexican testing facilities or molds in Spanish, you didn't make tires for Mexico.''
A proposal to modify the Mexican law appeared in the Oct. 6 Diario Oficial, the Mexican equivalent of the Federal Register.
The proposed rule will allow U.S. tire makers to use paper labels giving safety information in Spanish, instead of molding the information on the sidewall.
It also allows tire makers to test ``families'' of tires for safety in Mexican facilities, instead of every size and brand of tire they sell.
``The industry is optimistic about these changes,'' Mr. Pantuso said. ``They represent a major step forward, and should have a major impact on tire makers' ability of to get across the Mexican border.''
There are still some details that must be worked out, he added. For example, there are some questions as to the content and application of the paper labels.
``The industry would say the labels should be applied at or near the point of purchase,'' he said. ``Since warehouses ship tires all over the place, it would be a waste to have to apply the labels to tires which aren't going to Mexico.''
Mexican officials also have suggested allowing the shipment of tires tested and certified in ``approved'' U.S. facilities. However, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn't approve testing facilities, that option must be considered carefully, Mr. Pantuso said.