As President Obama prepares to travel to Europe next month to start formal negotiations on a trans-Atlantic trade agreement, the opportunity exists for harmonizing auto industry rules across the pond.
But would getting rid of tariffs and adopting standard vehicle-safety rules prevent European carmakers from building assembly plants here? It's a fair question but no argument against long-delayed, much-needed standardization.
A U.S.-Europe free-trade deal would increase shipments of cars and components in both directions, according to the American Automotive Policy Council. The United States has a 2.5 percent tariff on passenger vehicles made in Europe, and the European Union has a 10 percent tariff on passenger vehicles made in the United States.
Those tolls are compounded when calculating the cost of regulatory differences between the two markets. It is long past time for Europe and the United States to standardize safety and emissions rules. Insisting on creating proprietary regulations when perfectly good ones already are in place is wrong.
But the principle of harmonization does not outweigh an even more basic principle, one that carmakers never shy away from when they have the means and necessary volume: It's best to build cars where you sell them.