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NHTSA Signs Agreement in Geneva Concerning Establishing Global Technical Regulations

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

NHTSA Signs Agreement in Geneva Concerning Establishing Global Technical Regulations

June 26, 1998

NHTSA 34-98
June 26, 1998
Contact: Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

At a meeting in Geneva that included representatives from the United States, Japan and the European Communities, the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) yesterday signed an agreement which makes possible the development of global regulations concerning the safety performance of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment.

"Safety is President Clinton's highest transportation priority," said Dr. Ricardo Martinez, NHTSA administrator. "We've now made an agreement that allows us to obtain the best motor vehicle safety practices worldwide for the American people."

Dr. Martinez explained that a future compendium of candidate regulations will give everyone the opportunity to share knowledge and create a forum for ensuring that best practices are incorporated in the establishment of global regulations. The results of safety performance assessments of each country's regulations, based on real world injury data, will be helpful in identifying those best practices.

The agreement respects the sovereignty of each nation to adopt safety regulations at the levels it deems necessary while facilitating the participation of each and every interested nation. This is especially important for developing nations, Dr. Martinez said, since the World Health Organization estimates that, by the year 2020, the economic health burden of motor vehicle crashes will rank second in developing nations, after depression and before heart disease.

In a speech to the delegates before the signing, Dr. Martinez emphasized that everything must be done to ensure that all parties interested in vehicle safety have the opportunity to comment on and discuss the proposals that will be made for establishing global harmonization of regulations under this agreement. He said this includes the general public and their organizations because they buy and use the vehicles; the industry because they build them and must meet the requirements; the medical and public health professionals because they understand safety best in terms of real injuries to real people; and the regulatory agencies of governments because, by law, their mission is to develop regulations that will provide the social benefits that are the ultimate goal.

Dr. Martinez said that the United States has affirmed this policy at the highest political level. In his speech at the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the World Trade Organization (WTO), President Clinton proposed that "the WTO provide a consultative forum where business, and labor, and environmental, and consumer groups can provide regular and continuous input to help guide further the evolution of the WTO."

NHTSA is currently in the process of developing ways of encouraging and facilitating public participation at the very inception of activities in the United States relating to this agreement. It held a public meeting in earlier this month to gather ideas for a notice requesting comment on how NHTSA should promote participation.

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