MEXICO CITY-A five-year battle between the Mexican government and foreign wheel manufacturers ended June 6 when the Mexican Ministry of Economy let die a proposal to impose testing requirements on all imported wheels and rims.
"The ministry said that if it heard from anyone who still wanted the testing rule by June 6, it would continue to pursue it," said Linda Spencer, director of international and government relations for the Specialty Equipment Market Association. "But nobody came forward."
Mexican wheel manufacturers who feared foreign competition persuaded the ministry to issue a proposed standard mandating quality and safety tests for all imported wheels and rims in accredited Mexican laboratories, Spencer said.
Such a regulation was not only redundant, SEMA and its members argued, but also would be so expensive to implement that it essentially would close the Mexican market to foreign wheel and rim makers.
COFEMER, the Mexican consumer protection agency, agreed with SEMA that the proposal was inappropriate and unnecessary. Faced with strong opposition, the ministry withdrew the proposal, only to come back later with a somewhat softened version. Instead of mandating new testing procedures, the rewritten rule would have required existing tests, and it called for the test results to be placed on wheels via paper labels, rather than molded into them.
SEMA and COFEMER continued to oppose the rule, but only when the Mexican Chamber of Commerce and the Mexican Car Manufacturers Association joined them did the Ministry of Economy back down, Spencer said.
Mexico is not the only Latin American country to propose stringent regulations on imported wheels and rims. Two years ago, Venezuela simply imposed testing requirements on foreign wheels without consulting other nations.
While Venezuela´s action went completely against World Trade Organization rules, so far SEMA hasn´t seen the need to spend much time fighting it, according to Spencer.
"The law is on the books, but because of the fiscal troubles in Venezuela, they have never implemented it," she said.