If You Hate The US 25-Year Import Ban, Pay Attention To The 2016 Election

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Two trade agreements that are currently being debated could end this silly US restriction.

US-based car enthusiasts should be very familiar with the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act. If you aren't quite sure what we are talking about, it might refresh your memory if we called it the 25-year import law. Basically, the Safety Compliance Act was signed in 1988 to protect companies (mostly Mercedes-Benz) from the growing grey car market in the US. This legislation banned the importation of any car that was less than 25 years old, much to the dismay of enthusiasts around the US.


Because of this law, Americans have never been able to drive cars like the Nissan Skyline GT-R (until recently with the R32), Honda Civic Type R, or any previous version of the Ford Focus RS, among many others. Without boring you with a ton of detail, we find it important to explain the US car market that has been created by the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act. The US has some of the most stringent regulations for automobiles in the world. This isn't because US cars are necessarily safer or more economical, it is simply because US regulators feel that their restrictions are simply better. We are referring to trivial things like what color taillights should be and where seat belt mounting points are.

Efforts to create more uniform guidelines for cars around the world have basically been met by crickets on the US side. The US also imposes taxes on imported vehicles that make it difficult for foreign automakers to sell cars here cheaply. Selling small trucks is nearly impossible thanks to the Chicken Tax, which is a 25% tariff on potato starch, dextrin, brandy, and light trucks that was imposed in 1963 by President Lyndon Johnson. We bring up the issue of vehicle imports because of the upcoming presidential election in the US this November. There are many important issues on the docket, but car enthusiasts may want to focus on two trade agreements that could possibly end the pointless 25-year ban.

In my undergraduate thesis, I examined the political theories that led to the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act and analyze potential fixes. Realizing that the US won't simply agree to uniform regulations for automobiles, the next best solution that I discovered is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Both of these trade partnerships are being talked about in the election and both have serious economic benefits as well as consequences. You may not be interested in the details of free trade talks, but these agreements are extremely important if you are a car enthusiast in the US. Each one could help end the 25-year import ban.

The TTIP is a proposed agreement that would allow free trade between the US and the EU. The TPP is very similar, except it involves countries like Japan and Australia. Just the Atlantic Agreement alone would boost the EU's economy by $120 billion, the US's economy by $90 billion, and the rest of the world by $100 billion. So why is this important to car enthusiasts? If the TTIP were to be signed, American consumers would finally be able to import cars from Europe that we never got like the Audi RS6 Avant, an early Ford Focus RS, and TVR Sagaris. Of course signing the TPP would allow us to import any JDM car like the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R. As a car enthusiast, are you sold yet?


The benefits are much greater than just being to import old cars that we never received. Without such high trade barriers, foreign automakers would be able to have bigger profit margins in the US. This means that they could offer more models and more engine/transmission options which may have been once too expensive to get approval for. US manufacturers will also benefit from cheaper exports to Europe and Asia. If you have always hated the fact that many cool models never come to the US, then you should really pay attention to your vote in the upcoming election. So what is each candidate's stance on these partnerships?

Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, vehemently opposes trade agreements. Trump has called NAFTA "a disaster" and describes the TPP as a "bad, bad deal for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers." It is not our job to take a political stance here, but if you really want an R34 Nissan Skyline more than anything, Trump is probably not your candidate. So what about Hillary Clinton? Hillary also opposed the TPP (as it is written), but would support trade agreements that would raise wages and create new jobs. So, no clear winners between the two main parties. Then there's Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Is he the one that will let us have our Skylines and TVRs?

Gary Johnson supports free trade agreements, so long as they don't seek to aid big business. Johnson is the only presidential candidate who has said that he would sign the TPP in order to advance free trade. The Green Party's Jill Stein? According to her, TPP, for example, "fundamentally attacks American democracy and sovereignty by allowing corporations to overturn and pre-empt our laws and regulations through a separate, non-US investor-state court system. Obviously, we have simplified these trade partnerships as they pertain to us as car enthusiasts. There are many other factors to consider, especially when it comes to electing the next US president.

If you, like us, can't stand the US's 25-year import ban, then you may want to look deeper into the TTIP and TPP especially since they are both hot topics for the 2016 presidential race.


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