Many can makers and brands got a happy ending Tuesday as the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that tin mill products from Canada, China and Germany do not harm American producers, putting an end to year-long worries about potential cost increases with imported materials. The Can Manufacturers Institute applauded the decision.
The review originated with the United Steelworkers union and Ohio-based Cleveland-Cliffs, which describes itself as the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America. They petitioned in January 2023 for antidumping and countervailing duties against eight countries. The petitioners alleged a notable increase in recent years in unfairly priced tinplate imports in the U.S. market, which are used for canned food and other packaging applications.
ITC’s unanimous vote Tuesday resulted in negative determinations in the final phase of antidumping and countervailing duty investigations for Canada, China and Germany, meaning no duties will be imposed. The ITC opted to terminate the antidumping duty investigation for South Korea, finding that imports sold in the U.S. at less than fair value are “negligible.” The commission’s public report from the investigations will be published March 13.
The Consumer Brands Association was an outspoken opponent throughout the process. The CPG trade group said that can manufacturers rely on imported material, and U.S. steel manufacturers have limited capacity to meet the full extent of domestic can manufacturing demand. CBA suggested that heightened costs would be passed on to already strained consumers buying food products.
CBA CEO David Chavern called Tuesday’s decision “a true victory for U.S. consumers and manufacturers.”
“The 0 – 4 vote against the tariffs, combined with the Department of Commerce’s final duty determination in January, is a complete repudiation of a petition brought by steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs. If the tariffs had been imposed at the levels requested by Cleveland-Cliffs, nearly 40,000 manufacturing jobs would have been put at risk, with consumer prices for canned goods soaring up to 30 percent,” said Chavern in a statement.
In early January, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued its own final antidumping duty determination for tin mill products from Canada, China, Germany and South Korea. Commerce recommended duties, but at lower levels than Cleveland-Cliffs sought. Commerce also found no evidence of dumping from the Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Kingdom, which were other countries named in the petitions. Around that time, ITC heard arguments in the case — the last key step for groups awaiting Tuesday’s determination.
CMI said in a statement Tuesday that steel can manufacturers “commend” the agency for agreeing that Cleveland-Cliffs and other domestic steel producers are neither harmed nor threatened by imported tin mill products. CMI said the decision “substantiates testimony from steel can makers and canned food companies at the ITC hearing on January 4, 2024, that the [Cleveland-Cliffs] petition is completely unfounded.”
According to CMI, Cleveland-Cliffs does not produce the type of tin mill products required for “advanced, high-speed two-piece can production, which is a large and growing part of the can market.” Data shared by CMI indicates that Cleveland-Cliffs’ focus is in the three-piece can market, which CMI said accounts for just over one-third of total U.S. steel can production.
Cleveland-Cliffs could not be reached for comment prior to publication. A spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal: “While we are disappointed by today’s ITC determination, we must respect the ruling.” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, previously testified on behalf of Ohio steelworkers and decried Tuesday’s decision.