First meeting of European raw materials group
At present, 75 per cent of the natural rubber imported into Europe is used in the tyre sector and 93 per cent of this originates from South East Asia. The industry is thus dependent on one particular region for its most significant raw material.
The view held by the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association is that the European industry’s competitiveness depends on fair and sustainable access to all raw materials, including natural rubber. For this reason, the association is participating in the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials (EIP on Raw Materials), a body launched with the objective of ensuring a secure and sustainable supply of raw materials. The EIP’s aim is for this to be achieved by providing Europe with “enough flexibility and alternatives in the supply of important raw materials by becoming the world leader by 2020 in exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution.” ETRMA president Patrick Lepercq participated in the inaugural EIP High Level Steering Group meeting on 12 February.
In practice, the EIP is expected to trigger innovation mechanisms to achieve its objectives. These include new policy tools at EU level and innovation-friendly regulatory conditions at Member States level to support the development of innovations – both technology-based and nontechnology-based. Investing in people (skills) and in stimulating the excellence in the science base is also at the core of the initiatives that should spring from the partnership together with the promotion of targeted standardisation and public procurement instruments.
To this end, the EIP will bring together Member States and other stakeholders (including companies, associations, NGOs and researchers to develop joint strategies, pull together capital and human resources and ensure the implementation and dissemination of innovative solutions within Europe.
The Steering Group is directed under the initiative of vice-president Antonio Tajani (in charge of Industry), commissioner Potočnik (in charge of Environment) and commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn (in charge of Research and Innovation) and includes ministers, the European Investment Bank, Research Organisations and industry CEOs gathered in Brussels.
The ETRMA says it strongly supports the work of the EIP as a fair and sustainable access to raw materials is key to ensuring the competitiveness of the European Industry. At the initial Steering Group meeting, Lepercq gave an overview of ETRMA’s priorities and stated that “the European tyre industry expects the EIP to encourage transparency, diversification of supply and capacity building of natural rubber to limit the current market distortions.”
In particular, ETRMA calls for the following steps to be taken in the context of the EIP:
To develop partnerships for foreign direct investment (both private and public), through the creation of mechanisms that would allow for productivity increases and incite rubber production, in new as well as traditional areas. Increased cooperation with international organisations such as the African Union would be welcome;
The introduction of binding measures against raw material export restrictions in FTA and other trade agreement negotiations; and to address (sustainable) access to raw materials through political bilateral discussions, especially for example while setting up or deepening “comprehensive partnerships” between the EU and producing countries.
Promotion of the necessary dialogue between consuming and producing countries in all appropriate international fora, such as the G20, and more specifically for natural rubber, the IRSG (International Rubber Study Group_.
The inclusion of natural rubber in the list of critical raw materials.
The EIP High Level Steering Group will finalise a Strategic Implementation Plan by July, which should be operative in the second half of 2013. The ETRMA calls for the recommendations of the Strategic Plan to be translated into an immediate action plan.
In addition to participating in the EIP’s High Level Steering Group, the ETRMA is represented in the ‘Sherpa’ Group (which first met on 23 January) with its Secretary General, Fazilet Cinaralp, as well as in four of the five EIP Work Packages. The Work Packages are: Exploration, extraction, processing, recycling; substitution, alternative functionalities and materials; improving Europe’s raw materials regulatory framework conditions, knowledge base and infrastructure; e.g. data interoperability and availability; improving Europe’s recycling regulatory framework conditions and excellence; e.g. public procurement, private initiatives; and a international cooperation.