The 11 March earthquake and tsunami in Japan could prompt European carmakers to insist on suppliers being closer to them, the chief of Europe's automobile association said.

Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, told a news conference in Tokyo that some members are still being affected following the disaster in March which caused many Japanese carmakers to suspend operations.

This hit overseas as well as domestic carmakers. Hodac said this could see European manufacturers rethink their procurement strategies to ensure suppliers of vital parts are closer to them.

Hodac also expressed opposition to the European Union and Japan concluding a free trade agreement, saying it would provide a ''one-sided advantage'' to Japan while not benefiting European automakers.

He said: ''There are all kinds of technical and other regulatory problems. The non-tariff barriers to trade in Japan, hidden and the official ones, are enormous.

''We'd like to have a free trade agreement, but it has to be based on a level playing field,'' he added.

Hodac said the Japanese and European auto industries should rather try to enhance cooperation to draw up regulations and standards in the field of electric vehicles.

Electric cars, he added, are exactly the area where the two countries should work together to develop joint standards such as for charging those cars.