WASHINGTON-After a long standoff, Mexico has agreed to accept safety testing data provided by U.S. laboratories for U.S.-made passenger and truck tires bound for Mexico, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced March 18. The agreement effectively ends a trade stalemate between the U.S. and Mexico, under which Mexico required all tires crossing its borders to be tested for safety in Mexican laboratories.
``We're happy to see this issue move forward after four years of contention,'' said Peter J. Pantuso, vice president of public affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association in Washington.
``This agreement is noteworthy because it builds on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which requires the acceptance of U.S. test data (in Mexico) in 1998,'' added U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor in a prepared statement.
U.S. and Mexican tire safety standards are virtually identical. Yet Mexico's insistence that it would only consider Mexican compliance data created an extra layer of bureaucracy for U.S. tire manufacturers.
In at least a few cases, it caused tire shipments to be turned away at the border.
Under the new agreement, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will provide Mexico with a list of U.S. laboratories-including tire manufacturers' laboratories-it considers competent to test for compliance with U.S. tire safety standards.
When it first proposed this compromise last fall, NHTSA had identified only three such facilities. They were the in-house laboratory of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and two independents-Smithers Scientific Services of Akron and Standards Testing Laboratories of Massillon, Ohio.
NHTSA promised to provide the Mexican government with a further list of competent U.S. testing facilities. Mr. Pantuso said he hopes NHTSA will send that list to Mexico as soon as possible.
In a related issue, the Mexican government also has proposed accepting paper labels containing tire safety information in Spanish. Originally, it wanted that information to be molded on the sidewall.
The Mexican Commerce Department, known as SECOFI, was scheduled to hand down its final rule on that issue last month. Mr. Pantuso said March 19 there was still no word from SECOFI, but the final rule was expected very soon.