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Proposed Mexican standard may handcuff custom wheel importers

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The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has filed comments with Mexican authorities over a proposed wheel standard that could "effectively shut importers of specialty wheels and rims out of the NAFTA-partner marketplace."

In a letter commenting on the current draft of Mexican official standard PROY-NOM-150-SCFI-2002, Automobile-Rims for Automobile and Light Truck Tires-Safety Specifications and Test Methods, Sergio Nogueira, director of SEMA's

operations in Mexico, wrote that the standard is "unnecessary and would result in costly and burdensome requirement with little or no resulting benefits."

SEMA says the Mexican government has failed to provide any scientific evidence of a need for a standard establishing minimum safety requirements for imported wheels.

If the standard is adopted, wheel and rim manufacturers would have to test an unusually large number of samples before sale of a particular rim in Mexico would be approved, according to SEMA. The proposed standard "likens imported new rims to second-hand or used rims" (used rims are required to pass sample tests in Mexico).

The proposed standard for new rims is "inappropriate and will make the sales of new specialty wheels and rims in Mexico no longer economically feasible for most international rim manufacturers," wrote Nogueira.

SEMA suggests that an equitable compromise would be:

1) Mexican adherence to recognized international standards and methods such as the widely accepted ISO (International Standards Organization) protocol endorsed by another Mexican authority, COFEMER (Mexican Commission for Regulatory Improvement).

2) Mexico's acceptance of international

testing facilities' findings for wheels and rims brought into that country for sale.

SEMA worked successfully with a group of Mexican importers to deter a more rigorous proposed standard in 2002.

"While the new proposal is an improvement over the previous version in some aspects, the regulation would still require unique, costly, and extensive testing of all wheels imported to Mexico," says Linda Spencer, SEMA director of international and government relations.

The association estimates annual sales of specialty wheels and rims in Mexico total some $18 million.

More information about the issue, contact Spencer at lindas@sema.org or by phone at (202) 783-4032.

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