BRUSSELS - Japanese carmakers have signed a voluntary agreement with the European Commission to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The agreement was reached after months of unsuccessful negotiations followed by the commission's threat to impose new environmental rules on Japanese automakers.
The pact is modeled on the agreement European makers signed last autumn. However, it gives the Japanese one extra year to meet the 140-grams-per-kilometer (87 grams per mile) emissions limit that takes effect in 2008.
The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association had argued that import quotas would make it more difficult for its members to achieve the environmental goals, which are based on average fleet emissions.
To maximize profits, Japanese makers traditionally export bigger and less-fuel-efficient cars to Europe.
Meeting the 140-grams-per-kilometer level in 2008 would be too great a burden for the industry, Japanese automakers claimed.
However, Japanese makes are steadily increasing production of small cars in Europe. Nissan already makes the Micra in England, and Toyota will start producing the Yaris in France in 2001. Meanwhile, Honda has plans to begin small-car production in England.
When efforts to reach a formal agreement failed in June, the European Commission warned that it would draft legislation by October if the Japanese did not sign a CO2 deal similar to that adopted by the European automakers.
Korean makers signed an emissions deal with the European Commission in June. The Korean auto industry agreed to meet the 140-grams-per-kilometer standard in 2009. Sources said Korean automakers had argued that they should be exempt from CO2 limits because they have less than 5 percent of the European market.
To become effective, the Japanese agreement must be approved by European Union members and by each Japanese carmaker that is a member of JAMA.
The Korean pact also must be approved by the European Union. The organization's environmental ministers are expected to vote on both agreements this month.