SHANGHAI, Sep. 8 -- For most of the last century the tin market was regulated by intergovernmental agreements which have aimed to stabilise prices. Following the spectacular collapse of the International Tin Council in 1985/86, the “consensus” view has been that attempts to control production and prices are doomed to a failure. However a new book by John Hillman*, Professor Emeritus at Trent University, Ontario, Canada, argues that “the failure of the International Tin Council should not be taken as a licence to dismiss the experience of commodity control” and notes that subsequent experience of a deregulated market has produced both extremely low and high prices and “does not appear to have been a superior method of co-ordinating the activities of producers and users of this indispensible metal”.
The book focuses mainly on an earlier ITC – the International Tin Committee which regulated tin supply from 1927 – 1946. Both ITCs have been criticised, but most of the criticism has come from neo-classical economists or those adversely affected by their workings. Other less quoted studies indicate that supply controls can stabilise prices and raise the income of developing countries. Professor Hillman sees the ITCs as “institutions that struggle to deal with an elaborate pattern of economic, political and ideological forces” and suggests that detailed study of their operations – as this book provides – may form a better basis for public policy.