The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) and the European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) oppose the conditions for non-agricultural market access (NAMA) proposed within the framework of the current World Trade Organisation (WTO) 'Doha' round, they said in a joint statement.

The conditions, specified by the NAMA secretariat, risk undermining the competitiveness of the EU industries, putting pressure on production costs and employment, the two organisations said.

"We fully reaffirm our support for multilateral trade agreements whilst insisting that trade liberalisation should be a strategy towards the growth and prosperity of developing, emerging and developed countries.

"This means that Europe should safeguard employment in manufacturing sectors with a high added value, such as the automotive industry, and ensure fair routes for exporting their products," said EMF general secretary Peter Scherrer.

"We are in favour of lowering EU import tariffs but insist that our industry gets equitable market access in return."

"All evidence regrettably points towards the current round of negotiations resulting in almost full market access for the ASEAN and MERCOSUR regions as well as countries such as India to the EU without any improvements for the European automobile industry," added ACEA secretary general Ivan Hodac.

"The European Commission should not treat the 'engine of Europe' as a bargaining chip but show some ambition for a balance between the protection of its agricultural sector and of its industries."

EMF and ACEA said major emerging markets, which are developing a highly competitive auto industry, have indicated that they will shelter their most competitive industries from EU market access through the use of 'flexibilities' that allow them to refrain from lowering import duties for specific sectors.

The EU, however, would use its 'flexibilities' mainly for agricultural products, leaving its automotive sector both unprotected and without new market opportunities.

"In addition, there is no progress whatsoever concerning the lifting of so-called non-tariff barriers, which strongly limit the export of vehicles or vehicle parts," said Hodac.

Scherrer added: "The end effect will be that developed markets such as Japan and South Korea will be the main winners, as they would profit fully from the lowered EU tariffs. The least developed countries, however, would be the net losers of this unbalanced approach. This is contrary to one of the declared aims of the current Doha 'Development' round."

ACEA represents 14 major European vehicle manufacturers while the EMF speaks for the interests of 5.5m metalworkers in Europe and is a member of the ETUC.

ACEA noted that European tariffs are presently 10% for cars and light commercial vehicles, 22% for trucks and 16% for buses.

Bound tariffs are set at 100% of the original price in India, at up to 80% in certain ASEAN countries and at 35% in MERCOSUR countries. According to the recent NAMA text, EU tariffs would be reduced by more than half, with no guarantee that the peak tariffs in developing countries would be reduced as well.