There are currently 57 signatories to the Agreements, including non-EU countries such as Norway and the major vehicle manufacturing countries of Japan and South Korea. And the EU is also a part, having acceded via Council Decision 97/836/EC of 27 November 1997 and Council Decision 2000/125/EC of 31 January 2000.
And now for the interesting bits. When it comes dealing with the World Forum, we see this interesting report
. The European Commission on behalf of EU Member States, it says, seeks "continuously increase their involvement in the Geneva technical legislative process, in particular by working within WP.29 and its subsidiary bodies in order to ensure harmonisation between UNECE Regulations and EU legislation".
As a result, we thus discover that the EU's own major regulations on the general safety of motor vehicles have been replaced with UN Regulations. They aren't EU regulations any more. They might have an EU label on them by the time they get to us, but they're made in Geneva, not Brussels.
Dealing with UNECE, of course, is part of trade policy – part of the Single Market, so the EU takes change. Graciously, the EU Commission allows Member States take part in the preparatory work of the UNECE working parties.
If it becomes obvious at this stage, the kindly EU tells us, that further discussions between experts are necessary, an informal working group may be set up within a working party with a view to making progress in the development of the Regulations. This may occur where there is a rapid development of complex new technologies. And we can even take part in these informal groups.
However, when it comes finally to agreeing the standards proposed by UNECE, the Member States have to take the back seat. The European Commission, it says firmly, "exercises the right to vote in WP.29 on behalf of the EU and its 27 Member States". Thus, despite the UK having major vehicle manufacturing interests, producing its 1.58 million cars in 2012, we have no direct vote on vehicle standards. We do not have a seat at the table.
Just in case you might ask, yes Norway – as a full member of UNECE - takes part in the World Forum. As an independent nation, it represents itself in the committees and votes on its own behalf. Despite having no indigenous manufacturing industry, it takes an active part
in the proceedings.
What a fascinating contrast that makes. The UK, as a member of the EU, with its seat at the EU table, isn't allowed to vote on technical standards for motor vehicles, where the decisions are actually made – in Geneva. We get a seat in Brussels, but no seat in Geneva where it really matters.
On the other hand, Norway, which isn't a member of the EU, but is a member of the Single Market through the EEA, does get a vote in Geneva. Even though it doesn't have a car industry, it has more say in deciding on the standards to which our cars will be built than we do.
That, no doubt, is why Mr Cameron wants us to stay in the European Union.