WASHINGTON (April 5, 2011) — The U.S. Department of State is on defunding U.S. participation in the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) effective June 30, despite widespread protests from the U.S. rubber industry.
The agency cites the Rubber Manufacturers Association's (RMA) unhappiness with the accuracy of IRSG figures as a reason for ending U.S. participation. However, the RMA said it long ago changed its mind and now enthusiastically supports U.S. involvement.
According to the State Department, the U.S. formally submitted its intention to withdraw to the IRSG Secretariat Oct. 29.
“As producers and consumers of rubber have changed over the years, the relevance of data produced by this organization and the utility of U.S. government participation for U.S. industry has been put into question,” the agency said in a March 22 letter to the Rubber Trade Association of North America (RTANA). “China, the world's largest consumer of rubber, is not a member.”
Also, no important decisions on natural rubber (NR) production are made during IRSG meetings, the State Department said. In the unlikely event that NR supplies to the U.S. are threatened, the agency is prepared to aggressively assure U.S. access, it said.
The State Department letter was in response to a March 4 RTANA letter urging the agency to reconsider.
“Ever since the Japanese World War II invasion of Southeast Asia, and continuing through the Korean Conflict (which remains a global problem to this day), natural rubber has, and should be, on the national 'radar screen' of the United States,” the RTANA said in a March 4 letter to the State Department. “We need an unbiased supply-and-demand assessment of this strategic commodity.”
The IRSG is an intergovernmental organization recognized as an international body located in Singapore. Membership of the IRSG is open to governments; members currently are: Belgium, Cameroon, Cote d´Ivoire, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the U.S. The European Union is a contributing member.