NU Online News Service, July 10, 5:25 p.m. — Washington

The International Insurance Council, Washington, an association that focuses on eliminating barriers to international trade in insurance, is closing its doors.

The board decided to terminate the IIC largely because the IIC has already accomplished its mission, according to Gordon Stewart, president of the Insurance Information Institute, New York, and IIC secretary.

Now that global insurance markets are opening under initiatives such as the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade, and China has entered the World Trade Organization, the IIC board has concluded that there are no more good battles left to fight, Stewart says.

“The battle was won,” Stewart says.

Today, Stewart adds, the challenges facing U.S. insurance companies interested in global business tend to stem more from market conditions than from government barriers.

The IIC board also had to face the fact that the number of U.S. insurance companies interested in global business has declined.

A few years ago, many insurers believed they had to be global to compete, but now, Stewart says, many of those companies have recognized the difficulty of doing business outside the United States. Many have decided to refocus on the domestic market.

The shift in attitudes has caused a shakeout in the number of global, U.S.-based companies, leaving a few very strong players, Stewart says.

The IIC was organized shortly after World War II, at a time when many countries used tough restrictions to protect their insurance markets. The IIC founders hoped to open the closed markets.

The IIC worked to open international markets for pension products as well as life insurance and property-casualty insurance.

Other trade associations can replace one set of goals with another as conditions change, but an organization such as IIC, which has a unique, clearly defined focus, is not able to shift to another set of issues once its mission is accomplished, Stewart says.