American Iron and Steel Institute
Fifth International Tin Agreement

In the spring of 1976 the American Iron and Steel Institute called upon Dr. Fletcher to develop an economic analysis of the Fifth International Tin Agreement. During the prior three years the rise of OPEC and an equally unprecedented rise in primary commodity prices had profoundly effected industry perceptions of mineral commodity markets. Fear was widespread of the apparent portent of continuing high prices, artificially induced shortages, and growing cartelization of many metallic commodities. In this context the U. N. General Assembly devoted its Sixth Special Session (1974) to problems in raw materials and, under pressure form developing producing countries, formulated the concept of a New International Economic Order. This manifesto expressed the desires of less developed countries (LDC's) for greater control over their mineral resources, a greater share in the benefits accruing from those resources, and for a redistribution of income from developed consuming countries to developing producing countries. The state was thus set for renewed interest in the promotion of international commodity agreements, which would help the LDC’s fulfill these goals. As a result, the International Bauxite Association, the Intergovernmental Council of Copper Exporting Countries, the Primary Tungsten Association and other groups gained new resolve in their efforts to promote such agreements in their respective commodities.

In this environment of changing attitudes concerning the nature of the free market in primary commodities, there arose two factors of great importance concerning future developments. The United States government, after a long history of opposition, expressed a willingness to discuss U. S. involvement in international commodity agreements (ICA's) on a case by case basis. In addition, the International Tin Agreement was poised for renegotiation in May 1975. After almost twenty years of existence, it had become a symbol of ICA's in the area of metallic commodities and, as such, a testing ground for the new U. S. foreign policy. At the time of this analysis, the United States had signed the Fifth International Tin Agreement (ITA-5) at the U. N., thus setting in motion the congressional machinery of ratification.

This study examined the advantages and disadvantages of ITA-5 to the United States steel industry, evaluated the relative importance of the advantages and disadvantages in light of the past performance of other Tin Agreements, considered the possible trends of future agreements and future actions, and examined the desirability of using ITA-5 as a precedent for other international commodity agreements.

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