Why 28 Industry-Leading Organizations Are Aligning Against the Proposed ‘Can Tax’

As we close in on the International Trade Commission and Department of Commerce’s final decision on proposed import tariffs on tinplate steel, a Consumer Brands-led coalition of more than two dozen leading domestic manufacturers, food retailers and agricultural stakeholders is urging ITC to reject the petition and issue a finding of no injury to the petitioner, steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs.   

Taking into account all the facts of this case — the current marketplace not meeting manufacturers’ product needs, Commerce’s preliminary determination made in August that showed zero evidence of less-than-fair-market-value steel coming from five countries and the inability of Cleveland-Cliffs to supply steel that meets the quality and quantity specifications of CPG companies — a finding of no injury should be a foregone conclusion. ITC should be persuaded by these facts, rather than the false claims of a steel conglomerate that only wants to push prices higher at the expense of U.S. manufacturing jobs and everyday consumers.  

In the letter, the signatories — including the National Retail Federation, the US Dry Bean Council and the Shelf-Stable Food Processors Association, among others, warns against the risk of job loss and price hikes if the proposed tariff is approved.   

The steelmaker’s petition seeks to enforce tariffs of up to 300% on tinplate steel imports from eight countries. Tinplate steel is the primary material used in the production of everyday canned goods, from soup to sunscreen. Research released earlier this year indicates that the proposed tariffs would have a drastic and lasting negative impact on the U.S. food, beverage, and personal care industries, resulting in up to 40,000 lost domestic manufacturing jobs.   

First, there’s the ongoing logistics issue: domestic tin mill steel producers can only currently meet 50% of the total demand in the U.S. for food and household product cans. Second, domestic producers are not able to make many of the specifications required by can makers to meet the food safety, on-shelf appearance, processing and other operational requirements of CPG companies. Thus, can manufacturers and their customers must rely on specific imports from Canada, Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom to make cans found in pantries all across the U.S. and around the world.  

This proposed tariff could hike prices of canned goods as much as 30%, which not only adds up at the register but would disproportionately impact the most vulnerable consumers. As I’ve raised before, at the heart of this issue is the reality that were the administration to move forward with this can tax, American families receiving government assistance would end up footing the bill, as the tariff could mean price increases that eat into SNAP and WIC benefits as much as $16 per month. We can’t ask anyone who is already doing their part to make ends meet and budget through the outset of an inflationary period to have to cut back again at the dinner table or even among their preferred household products. A cornerstone of the work we do is steeped in maintaining the dignity of choice for all consumers and its imperative the administration do its part to help us help consumers make choices for their shelf stable goods that align with their dietary needs and budget.   

As the Biden administration continues to wrestle with inflation and an already challenging cost environment, now isn’t the time to weigh a cost increase that would pad the profit margin of a politically connected steel company at the expense of everyday Americans. Instead, the administration should reject Cleveland-Cliffs’ petition, protect up to 40,000 manufacturing jobs and keep grocery prices low for our country’s most vulnerable consumers.  

The letter and the full list of signatories can be found here