The humble door latch has become the auto industry's symbol of international cooperation.
Last week, officials from 22 countries gathered in Geneva to adopt a common safety standard for door latches. The new rules will ensure that door latches don't pop open in a collision.
Automakers no longer will have to design different latches for different markets. That will save automakers money and speed the introduction of vehicles in worldwide markets.
It may be just a small step toward making vehicles safer, but it's a welcome portent of bigger things to come. Next, safety officials plan to negotiate common standards for brakes, window glass and lighting.
The United Nations made this possible in 1998, when it negotiated changes in the rulemaking procedure that allowed the United States to join the talks. Also participating were Canada, Australia, China, Japan and the European Union.
The U.S. government supports the accord, as do U.S. and foreign automakers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will implement the rule in the United States.
Many U.S.-built vehicles already comply with the rule, but sliding doors on minivans may require an upgrade. According to one estimate, this might cost about $7 per vehicle - a reasonable price to pay for upgraded safety.
In the United States, some political gadflys have taken potshots at international accords. But this agreement is good for safety and good for the industry. Automakers should support this program fully.