ZF Friedrichshafen is welcoming the stance taken by German automotive industry association VDA which is urging the European Union and US to rapidly come to agreement surrounding free trade agreements (FTAs).

The VDA has called for common standards between the two trading blocs followed by the elimination of all trade barriers, a view expressed by the body’s president Matthias Wissman at this week’s Detroit auto show.

“We are recommending to Wissman what he should [say] to the German government,” ZF Friedrichshafen CEO Stefan Sommer, who is also on the VDA board, told just-auto in Detroit. “Of course we would like to strengthen our export capability and have a free trade agreement.

“Wissman has a view if we have to homologate our technology, we are doing double work. In the end, this double work costs money and the consumer has to pay for it. There is clear economic interest behind that.”

The ZF CEO outlined how the US was currently the supplier’s most important market for development, not only as pent-up demand for new vehicles rises, but also because the manufacturer has made the decision to localise to meet local requirements.

To that end, ZF created 700 jobs in the US in 2012 and says it is on track to fulfill growth plans this year.

Sommer also noted Punch Metals’ acquisition of General Motors’ powertrains operations in its Strasbourg plant had formed part of its planning and that it “did not really compete” for the French site.

“It was our planning together with Punch that it would work as a kind of workbench for us,” said Sommer. “We provide a certain volume to them and they are in a better situation to operate in France than we are.

“It was no surprise for us and it was more or less our intention to do it like this. Demand in the market for this is higher than we can currently provide.”

GM and Punch Metals – a company of industrial investor Guido Dumarey – reached an agreement at the end of last year for the Strasbourg factory – with Punch acquiring the production plant, engineering centre and die casting operation.

All current employees will be retained by the new owner.