The Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) has requested that the US Commerce Department exclude tinplate steel from tariff and trade restrictions.

Accounting for nearly 2% of all steel, tinplate is a material used to make food cans.

Speaking at a public hearing held by the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security, CMI President Robert Budway said that tinplate steel plays an important role in the US economy.

He also noted that this category of tinplate steel needed specific consideration as it is not used in any US defence or national security applications.

Last year, the US demand for tinplate steel was 2.1 million tonnes, while domestic tinplate production was around 1.2 million tonnes.

CMI argued that trade restrictions will have a severe economic impact on the can manufacturing industry, which largely depends on imports.

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The rejection rates of domestically produced tinplate are approximately 300% to 500% higher than those of foreign supplies, which signify a substantial decline in quality domestic tinplate, according to Budway.

Budway said: “Even a small increase in the price of raw materials would create a destructive competitive disadvantage, forcing possible closures of can manufacturing plants in the US and negatively impacting the 10,000 workers and their families in these US-based plants. 

“One could easily foresee where finished cans or even cans with food products made overseas could be imported at lower costs than the US produced cans.”

"One could easily foresee where finished cans or even cans with food products made overseas could be imported at lower costs than the US produced cans."

He stated that about 42 million Americans live in food insecure households for whom easy access to canned food is crucial.

The can industry is also vital for the people dependent on government food assistance schemes, such as the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme, who consume canned fruit and vegetables.

CMI is the national trade association representing the metal can manufacturing industry and its suppliers in the US.

The can industry produces nearly 124 billion food, beverage and other metal cans employing approximately 28,000 people and generating $17.8bn direct economic activity.

Image: Tomato juice in steel cans. Photo: courtesy of Michael Francis McCarthy / Flickr.