ARLINGTON, VA. — The United States pet food and treat industry has long dealt with regulatory and supply issues, from ingredient sourcing to transportation woes and more. But now a new threat has emerged, this time targeting canned packaging.

Steel conglomerate Cleveland-Cliffs recently submitted a petition to the Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking to impose tariffs of up to 300% on tinplate steel materials imported to the United States from Canada, China, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, the Netherlands and United Kingdom. According to the conglomerate, these eight countries are offering tinplate steel at cut-rate prices, therefore impacting its sales and creating unfair competition.

Tinplate is used to package several hundred different canned goods, from human food and pet food to personal care products. Imposing high tariffs would inevitably raise production costs for can and product manufacturers and, in turn, lead to price increases for consumers. With this in mind, the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) released two studies on May 8 in collaboration with Trade Partnership Worldwide, LLC, and The Juday Group, revealing the disastrous effects of implementing such high tariffs.

“Cleveland-Cliffs is abusing trade laws and attempting to artificially inflate prices to increase its profits at the expense of grocery shoppers,” said David Chavern, president and chief executive officer of CBA. “The Department of Commerce and ITC need to thoroughly review the facts of the case, including these two economic impact studies, and issue a decision that doesn’t prop up one company at the expense of an entire domestic industry and the consumers that rely on these essential products.”

According to the studies, the proposed tariffs would threaten almost 40,000 manufacturing jobs and increase the costs of canned products, including pet food, by up to 30% throughout the United States.

Research by The Trade Partnership Worldwide found that for every one steelmaking job that the proposed tariff may help protect, it would threaten 600 manufacturing jobs. The tariff would also cause an increase of imported empty cans and finished food products, making the United States more reliant on both Mexico and China, from which imports of canned foods rose 19% from 2021 to 2022.

The Juday Group found that implementing the proposed tariffs would increase the cost of canned food items by up to 58 cents per product.

“Steel can manufacturing is an important industry that brings nutritious foods to every pantry or kitchen in America,” said Robert Budway, president of the Can Manufacturers Institute. “If this can tax is imposed, it will not only harm our industry, it will also harm consumers, especially those who rely on affordable and accessible canned foods. What is intended as a tool to protect US manufacturers will have the exact opposite impact because can makers need access to certain steels not even made in the United States.”

Inflation has already pushed consumers to their limits, and a price hike on canned pet food products would likely force pet owners to reevaluate their purchasing habits and could impact pet food spending. The threat the proposed tariff has on the industry is clear, according to Pet Food Institute (PFI).

“PFI appreciates the studies conducted by the CBA on the impact of tinplate steel tariffs,” said Dana Brooks, president and chief executive officer of PFI, in a statement May 9. “The studies released yesterday by CBA clearly show that implementing proposed tariffs of up to 300% on tinplate steel imports will harm American consumers and manufacturing jobs. It is vital that the Department of Commerce and ITC deny imposition of these tariffs. Imposing these additional tariffs on consumer goods will increase production costs of canned cat and dog food and those costs will be passed down to Americans who rely on affordable, quality canned pet food.”

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