U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., this week wrote to two key administration officials to highlight the need to protect consumers and Georgia jobs by tailoring an ongoing investigation into aluminum trade practices so that it does not unfairly target products that are not a threat to national security.
Isakson and Perdue are requesting that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis exempt key consumer aluminum products that are not the source of national security concerns from the administration’s investigation into aluminum trade practices.
The exemption would allow the commerce department to focus its investigation on imports that may present a security concern while protecting consumers from immediate price increases and safeguarding jobs in Georgia.
On April 27, 2017, the president directed the secretary of commerce, in consultation with the secretary of defense, to investigate whether foreign imports of aluminum are endangering U.S. national security. However, should materials used in the manufacturing of beverage cans, including rolled can sheet and primary aluminum, unnecessarily become a part of the investigation, Georgia producers such as the Coca-Cola Company, craft beer brewers and Anheuser-Busch, among others, would be forced to increase costs for consumers or cut jobs to absorb the subsequent price increases.
Due to lack of availability in the United States, primary aluminum that is made into rolled can sheet is largely sourced from Canada. The senators explain, “import restrictions or tariffs on these products could increase consumer prices, add hundreds of millions in costs for companies in the beverage industry, and potentially affect American manufacturing jobs in industries that rely on these products.”
In their bipartisan letter, the senators requested the administration exempt these unrelated products from its investigation. The letter was led by U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and in addition to Isakson and Perdue, was signed by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo, Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
The letter reads in full:
Dear Secretaries Ross and Mattis:
We write to request that you exempt rolled can sheet, as well as the primary aluminum and ingot milled into rolled can sheet, food and beverage cans, bottles, lids, and closures, from the investigation prompted by the Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Commerce dated April 27, 2017. Such an exemption would help protect consumers from immediate price increases and support domestic jobs.
Under section 232(b)(1)(A) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (“Section 232”), Congress permits the Secretary to initiate investigations against imported articles into the United States in order to “determine the effects [of such importation] on the national security.” We are concerned, however, that the scope of this investigation could include aluminum that has no national security application, such as rolled can sheet, used to make aluminum cans and bottles, and primary aluminum, used to make rolled can sheet, food and beverage containers, lids, and closures.
Primary aluminum that is made into rolled can sheet is largely sourced from Canada. Because of this, companies that use these products depend on imports in order to make aluminum cans and bottles. For decades, the United States has run a trade deficit with respect to primary aluminum, the key raw material for producing all of the above products, due to a lack of domestic availability. Import restrictions or tariffs on these products could increase consumer prices, add hundreds of millions in costs for companies in the beverage industry, and potentially affect American manufacturing jobs in industries that rely on these products.
We hope you reach the same conclusion and look forward to continuing to work with you on this matter and other opportunities to strengthen the U.S. economy.