ASEAN targets unification of automotive regulations/mutual recognition by 2015

Drafting activities in 2011 falling behind schedules



 ASEAN is working toward the realization of automotive regulations unification and mutual recognition of their approval (MRA) in 2015. Today, the Automotive Product Working Group (APWG) has chosen 19 regulations of high priority in an effort to reach ASEAN MRA for them using unified regulations (UNECE regulations) prepared by the United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP29).

 Proposing criteria for ASEAN MRA goes beyond the development of uniform regulations. It involves the method of applying the regulations, the unification of testing methods for conducting approving tests, the clarification of qualifications of technical services, etc., and necessary work is under way toward their solutions.

 It is the responsibility of APWG to prepare a final proposal regarding ASEAN MRA by the end of 2011 but its work is not progressing as smoothly as planned.

1. ASEAN Community and unification of automotive regulations

 The automobile market in ASEAN is not as big as the major markets in the world. Its sales quantity is about one half that of Japan, less than 20% of the quantity sold in Europe. However, it is growing very rapidly at a year-on-year rate of 135% (from 2009 to 2010), faster than fast growing markets such as China (at growth rate of 132%) or India (134%). A steady growth is likely to continue in ASEAN in the light of the relatively stable political conditions in the recent years.

 Forming a European Economic Community type unified market in ASEAN has long been proposed in arguments regarding ways to strengthen ASEAN as a whole. Moves directed by such a proposal are taking place with automobiles such as the unification of automotive and parts regulations, the unification of their recognition, and their mutual approval (MRA) toward a concrete goal of reducing or removing intraregional tariffs.

Table 1 Comparison of automobile markets (results in 2010)

Country, area Unit sales (in thousands) Population (in thousands)
growth (%)
ASEAN 2,450 135 592,290
Japan 4,960 108 126,540
EU 12,990 95 492,850
U.S. 11,590 112 310,380
China 18,060 132 1,348,930
India 3,040 134 1,224,510
Brazil 3,510 112 194,950
Middle East (GCC) 1,150 112 43,500
Russia 1,890 129 142,960

Source: JAMA Monthly Report, JETRO "Information by country and area" and other official publications

 The argument favoring the harmonization of automotive regulations soon began to impart serious influence on Japan's automotive industry. If such a harmonization is realized, it will also exert a greater impact than ever on the United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP29) where harmonization of regulations and mutual recognition of approval are being discussed, and ASEAN will be as influential as EU then. It seems worthwhile to go over relevant activities taking place in ASEAN as a whole.

 An agreement was concluded in 1992 regarding the introduction of CEPT (Common Effective Preferential Tariff) toward the realization of AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Area) eyeing free trades within the ASEAN region. The agreement specifically contained a clear image of the harmonization such as the removal of tariff in intraregional trades by 2020.

 As a result, Japan and other foreign capitals began investing heavily in the major ASEAN member countries. Automotive parts manufacturers, as well as automakers, made special efforts to increase their production capacities and cultivate technical development resources in Thailand and Malaysia which soon led to the formation of a parts supply network within the ASEAN region.

 The efforts toward the harmonization were moved up by external factors including the economic ministerial meeting of 16 countries including ASEAN members, Japan, China, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand in August 2006 that led to an agreement toward the realization of the free trade agreement (FTA) vision.

 Agreements including the following were reached during the ASEAN Summit held in January 2007:

 1) Establish the ASEAN Community by 2015

 2) The Community to comprise the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Socio-cultural Community (ASCC) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)

 In November 2007, the ASEAN Charter was formulated to set ASEAN's legal framework. The Charter was ratified by member countries and came into force in December 2008 marking the first step toward the formation of a giant intraregional market that out-scaled the EU and other regions in respect of the regional population.

Fig. 1  History of activities of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)

Fig. 1 History of activities of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)

 The ASEAN Consultative Council for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) was founded in 1992 with the aim of improving industrial regulations and approval systems under the umbrella of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). This marked the start of activities toward the harmonization of regulations and mutual recognition of approvals.

 When ASEAN's goal achieving year was moved up from 2020 to 2015, the AEC-ACCSQ's action plan was also rescheduled which required accelerating actions related to the mutual recognition of approvals.

 The terms of reference (TOR) of the ACCSQ were defined as shown in Table 2. These terms included the elimination of regional practices and technical barriers to trade related to regulations with respect to 20 priority products, the exchange of information on laws and assessment regulations, and the mutual recognition of approval based on unified technical requirements and methods of approval.

 The ASEAN Consultative Council for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) is currently engaged in activities by various working groups with respect to the key industrial sectors. Automotive Product Working Group (APWG) is responsible for such activities with respect to automobiles.

Table 2  Terms of reference (TOR) and goals of the ASEAN Consultative Council for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ)

 To eliminate Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) related to Standards and Conformance.
 Information exchange on Laws, Rules, Regulatory Regimes on Standards and Conformity Assessment Procedures.
 Harmonization of standard, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures.
 Harmonization of Standards for 20 priority products.
 Mutual Recognition Arrangements.


 The activities being performed by the ASEAN Consultative Council for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) are generally divided into (1) unification of regulations in priority industrial sectors, (2) realization of mutual recognition of approval (MRA) and (3) harmonization of regulations.

Table 3  Activities by the ASEAN Consultative Council for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ)

Unification of
regulations in priority
industrial sectors
Prepared Foodstuff, Healthcare Products, Cosmetics, Medical Devices, Pharmaceuticals, Rubber-based, Electrical and Electronic Equipments, Traditional Medicine and Health Supplement, Wood based Products, Automotive
Realization of
mutual recognition
of approval (MRA)
MRA that has
been realized
1998: ASEAN Framework Agreement on MRAs
2002: Sectoral MRA for Electrical and Electronic Equipment
2003: ASEAN MRA of Product Registration Approval for Cosmetics
2009: ASEAN Sectoral MRA for GMP Inspection of Manufacturers for Medical Products
MRA being
MRA on Recognition of Conformity Assessment Results for Prepared Foodstuff
ASEAN MRA on Type Approval for Automotive Products
of regulations
of regulations
that has
been realized
2003: Agreement on the ASEAN Harmonized Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme --- ASEAN Cosmetic Directive
2005: Agreement on the ASEAN Harmonized Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulatory Regime
of regulations
being developed
ASEAN Medical Device Directive, ASEAN Regulatory Framework for Traditional Medicines and Health Supplement


 Work is progressing smoothly with electrical and electronic equipment, cosmetics and a few other industrial sectors. In contrast, work in the automotive sector is lagging far behind because a broad range of products are involved, certain activities are already being conducted by the United Nations, and integration with such preceding efforts must be taken into consideration.

 Japanese industries and the government have been cooperating with ASEAN in this regard for many years and an agreement has been reached in terms of directions in which the UNECE regulations are to be used as the basis for defining ASEAN regulations. However, many issues are yet pending such as legal application, operation of approving activities, etc.

 The following section will go over the activities being conducted by the Automotive Product Working Group (APWG) and introduce what has been studied and discussed regarding the harmonization of regulations and mutual recognition arrangements in the automotive sector.


WP29, UNECE Regulations, 1958 Agreement

 The World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP29) has been founded, under the umbrella of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (headquartered in Geneva), to work toward the unification of technical regulations for automobiles. All member countries of the United Nations are eligible to participate in the WP29. The working group is unique in that automotive industrial organizations and other international non-governmental organizations are also permitted to participate and contribute to the drafting of regulations.

 The regulations of the WP29 prepared under the 1958 Agreement are called the UNECE Regulations. There are 127 regulations today. The regulations are designed to unify technical requirements for automotive parts and systems while, at the same time, providing for the method of certification in accordance with the technical requirements which, in turn realizes the mutual recognition (MRA) of results of certification.

 A total of 47 countries, including the EU members, Russia, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Korea, and the EU as a regional community, have been admitted to the WP29 today. Among the ASEAN nations, Thailand and Malaysia are members and Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are among those that are currently making necessary arrangements to become new members of the WP29.

Reference: Review of Automotive Engineering Vol. 62 October 2008 "Framework and the process of the harmonization of international regulations"


2. Harmonization of vehicle regulations and mutual recognition of approval - Activities of the Automotive Product Working Group (APWG)

 The Automotive Product Working Group (APWG) is working with the following goals as much in the similar manner as other industrial sectors:

1) To eliminate trade barriers and promote trade.

2) To unify standards, regulations and technical requirements to help achieve the above goal.

3) To realize mutual recognition of approval of standards and regulations.

4) To establish common regulatory regime including the methods of approval.

 In reality, different automotive product standards exist in many ASEAN member countries and are used separately.

 For instance, different standards are used in Thailand (TIS: Thai Industrial Standards), Malaysia (MS: Malaysian Standards) and Indonesia (SNI: Indonesian Standards) with regard to the manufacture, sales and imports of automotive and other parts. While these standards are contributing to protecting domestic markets from goods of poor quality, they are being used without integration of technical requirements or manner of operation and sometimes cause confusion among respective industries.

 Necessary steps toward integration are being taken more recently with regard to automotive performance requirements, specifically with regard to safety performance and emissions regulations. However, the regulations being applied in different countries lack correlation and the methods of approval often vary among them.

 When APWG began work toward the unification of these standards, regulations and methods of approval, the group's discussions mainly centered on the need for ASEAN's original standards that reflected specific conditions of the member countries. At that point, there was no clear distinction between "product standards" and "performance standards" that guaranteed automotive safety and environmental protection.

 Japan Automobile Standards Internationalization Center (JASIC), an organization formed by public and private sectors in Japan, has been hosting the annual JASIC Asia Government/Industry Meeting since the latter half of the 1990's as part of its project in support of internationalization of automotive regulations in Asia. The meeting has provided a place for exchanging information among the ASEAN member countries, China, Taiwan, Korea, India and other countries, about international harmonization of vehicle regulations and mutual recognition of approval. Another important topic has been the importance of developing road safety and environmental regulations.

 Since the vision of ASEAN mutual recognition of approval (MRA) was announced in 2004, the JASIC Asia Government/ Industry Meeting began discussions on:

(1) Developing and applying international regulations for the automotive industry that had become globalized.

(2) Understanding the need for cooperating with international regulations harmonization activities by UNECE at WP29.

 In this regard, JASIC has been making special efforts especially with the key members of ASEAN Automotive Product Working Group (APWG), namely Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, directing their attention to leveraging on UNECE regulations and the concept of mutual recognition of approval (MRA) developed under the 1958 Agreement by the United Nations WP29 which sets an international framework. As a result, Thailand and Malaysia became new members of the 1958 Agreement while other countries including Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are in the stage of identifying specific issues that they face before joining the Agreement.

 Malaysia, a new member to the 1958 Agreement, is now playing a leading role in drafting APWG regulations based on the UNECE regulations (Table 4). For example, the vehicle categories are to be defined in reference to those in the UNECE regulations, technical requirements for 19 products in the UNECE regulations to be used in preference to others, and all regulations to follow any amendments to the UNECE regulations.

Table 4  Agenda at APWG - Preparation of regulations, certification and mutual recognition of approval

of regulations
1. Technical requirements based on UNECE regulations
 Priority: 19 products chosen from UNECE regulations
 Technical requirements in line with actual conditions in ASEAN
 Follow any amendments to UNECE regulations
2. Harmonization with vehicle categories defined in UNECE regulations
3. Develop safety, environmental and fuel efficiency regulations; start development of methods of approval.
4. Harmonize regulations for compact passenger cars (M1) and light commercial vehicles (N1) with UNECE regulations.
5. Choose 5 from 19 products related to two-wheeled vehicles.
Approval and their
mutual recognition
・ Products: Parts, Systems and Components (same as the current 1958 Agreement)
・ Acceptance of test reports and written certificates
・ Unified regulations regarding approval tests
・ Designation of Technical Services
・ Clarification of official capacities of Technical Services
・ Establishment of ASEAN Automotive Committee
・ Completion of a working structure within 2011

 As shown in Table 5, UNECE regulations regarding 19 products have been chosen on priority basis and necessary steps are being taken to build an infrastructure to put the regulations in use including tests for approval. The UNECE regulations were prioritized through discussions among the member countries who agreed to choose basic technical requirements regarding compact passenger cars (M1), light commercial vehicles (N1) and two-wheeled vehicles. The decisions were made taking into consideration, among others, the availability of approving and testing services in member countries.

Tale 5  UNECE regulations related to ASEAN MRA

・ Braking System - R13 ・ Safety glass - R43
・ Braking System (Passenger Car) - R13H ・ Rear View Mirror - R46
・ Seat belt anchorage - R14 ・ Diesel Emission - R49
・ Seat belt - R16 ・ Noise emission - R51
・ Seats - R17 ・ Pneumatic tyre - commercial - R54
・ Head Restraints - R25 ・ Driver Operated Control - R60
・ Pneumatic tyre - passenger - R30 ・ Tyre (L category) - R75
・ Speedometer (L category) - R39 ・ Steering Equipment - R79
・ Exhaust Emission (L category) - R40 ・ Exhaust Emission - R83
・ Noise (L category) - R41

 MRA assumes that all ASEAN member countries follow the same technical requirements, and this is the reason why the UNECE regulations were chosen to set the base. However, the APWG is aware that certain other conditions must also be met.

 Take UNECE R17 for "Seats" for example. The original R17 regulation regarding seats came into force on December 1, 1970. Since then, it was amended or corrected 16 times in total as shown in Table 6, meaning that it is changed frequently every 2 to 3 years. The latest version, referred to as 08 Series, came into effect on July 22, 2009.

 The members to the 1958 Agreement that have adopted the regulation automatically apply the latest version (08 Series) and MRA has been established among them. To make MRA work, it is critical that approving tests are conducted in accordance with the same technical requirements. In other words, MRA would not work if non-member countries to the Agreement that may be operating under UNECE R17 are not bound by certain rules to use the latest version of the specific regulation.

 The ASEAN members, other than Thailand and Malaysia, have not acceded to the United Nations 1958 Agreement and Thailand has not adopted R17. Therefore, APWG must somehow establish a mechanism where the same technical requirements are automatically applied by all ASEAN member countries. This is one of the urgent agenda that APWG faces today.

Table 6  Revisions to UNECE R17 (Seats)

Series revision Other revision, amendment Effective date Series revision Other revision, amendment Effective date
0 1970/12/1 6 C1 1999/7/19
1 1973/9/11 7 S1 1999/11/17
2 1981/3/9 S2 2000/1/13
3 1986/5/1 C1 2000/6/27
C1 1987/12/14 S1-C1 2001/8/23
4 1990/1/28 R4-C1 2003/11/12
S1 1994/1/26 R4-C2 2004/6/23
5 1996/12/26 S3 2007/6/11
6 1998/1/18 8 2009/7/22
7 1998/8/6

 Other than the same technical requirements being used in common by all member countries, MRA must warrant that tests of the same quality are available in all member countries. This requires a guarantee, with regard to the quality of technical services, that all regulatory requirements are understood correctly by technical services, tests are conducted according to correct methods, and test reports are controlled correctly. The 1958 Agreement contains minimum requirements in those regards and APWG is discussing the reference standards in Table 7 taking such requirements in due consideration.

 From the viewpoint of homogeneity between samples used in approving tests and products, these standards provide for a need of standards, as written below, regarding quality control as a minimum qualification for manufacturers.

Table 7  Standards for technical services and manufacturers

・ ISO/IEC 17025 - General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories
・ ISO/IEC 17021 - Conformity assessment - Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems
・ ISO/IEC 17020 - General criteria for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection
・ ISO 9001 - Standards for Quality Management System (Production)

 Recently, the APWG is beginning to consider the United Nations International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA) as well. The APWG is also beginning to determine pre-requisites for acceding to the 1958 Agreement, such as thorough understanding of the provisions in the 1958 Agreement regarding the Conformity of Production (COP: a means of evidencing that the manufacturer manufactures its product in accordance with specific quality control systems and criteria and is subjected to auditing by certification services, etc.), a basic requirement in the development of a vehicle type approval system and MRA that are yet to be developed in many countries.

Table 8  Future agenda for APWG

1. Correct understanding of and accession to the 1958 Agreement and 1998 Agreement of the UN WP29
2. Correct understanding of the Vehicle Type Approval (VTA)
3. Correct understanding of Conformity of Production (COP) provided for in the 1958 Agreement
4. Operation of international criteria regarding inspections, approving tests, quality control of production, act of approval, etc.
5. Cooperation with other countries including Japan, the United States and Europe
6. Cooperation with automotive industrial organizations in the region
7. Information exchange and education on on-going basis in the region

 A preliminary draft of automotive MRA is required by the end of 2011, but it is far from completion because of many pending matters as discussed above.

 It is practically impossible to exercise automotive MRA in all ASEAN member countries by the target year of 2015, and it appears many countries will be operating under the coexistence of their existing and the new regulatory regimes or under partial application of the new regime


3. Future outlook: A shift from ASEAN MRA to ASEAN Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ASEAN-WVTA)

 This report contains moves being taken toward the goal of the unification of automotive regulations in the ASEAN region and their mutual recognition of approvals. Also taking place at the United Nations WP29 World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations is the discussion on the "international whole vehicle type approval" (IWVTA) as the next-generation type approval for automobiles. Their discussion also addresses the possible amendment to the existing 1958 Agreement and encouraging those countries in Asian and other areas that have not yet joined the Agreement to become new members. The non-members include key ASEAN member countries, the Gulf nations, Latin American countries, Brazil and India.

 One of the major challenges facing the ASEAN member countries is the development of an operational infrastructure for the UNECE regulations that will bind them. Also critical is to establish a vehicle type approval (VTA) system and develop a reliable operational system to ensure automotive safety and environmental protection.

 The respective authorities in Thailand and Malaysia are striving to improve the VTA while those in Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia should have gained enough information as to what needs to be done. Revision of present laws may be necessary in some countries and this could become a major barrier. But this could be addressed in the discussion on ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and expedite efforts accordingly in respective countries.

 Pending agenda at APWG also include the development of VTA as the next step of ASEAN MRA of parts, systems and components.

 What is hoped now is a VTA to be developed among the ASEAN member countries that does not contradict the concept of IWVTA being proposed by WP29, and further moved up to ASEAN-WVTA as an ultimate form of ASEAN MRA.

 When the ASEAN Community comes into existence in the future, it may become a community member of the United Nations 1958 Agreement in much the same way as the EU. When the IWVTA starts to function after 2020, the ASEAN-WVTA is likely to be operating just as will be its European counterpart, EU-WVTA.

 This report concerns activities taking place in the ASEAN region. In a broader international perspective such as the WP29, there will be more vigorous discussion involving regional associations such as ASEAN. This being the case, it will be a natural course for industrial bodies to be forming organizations that meet the new needs in the global scene.

Figure 2 Regulations harmonization activities at WP29 World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations in the future

Figure 2 Regulations harmonization activities at WP29 World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations in the future

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