Aluminum Trade Policies Must Change

Aluminum Trade Policies Must Change

Deja vu. Shortly after I started with the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) in 2016, I had my first real test. While advocacy has always been my passion, I was still learning the industry, as well as my CEO role, and had never worked on a trade issue. When the International Trade Commission (ITC) received a petition to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese aluminum foil, we were off and running.

This issue has again taken center stage with a U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) investigation into whether aluminum foil from South Korea and Thailand is circumventing those duties. Unlike the ITC case, there is no “petitioner,” and the DOC decided to investigate on its own. Also, unlike the ITC case, there is a larger political component to this investigation, and FPA will make sure to use every resource to ensure policymakers know what is at stake.

Earlier this year, FlexPack VOICE® had an article on the importance and shortage of alu­minum as well as the high cost of aluminum, which is necessary for sensitive products like food, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. Within the industry, demand is at an all-time high, as medical and personal protective equipment needs have risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic and monkeypox outbreak. Outside the industry, aluminum foil is used for various products such as electric car batteries, which are in high demand as gas prices soar and car manufacturers fulfill their green energy commitments.

Adding to this supply shortage—and increasing costs at a time when inflation is at its highest in 40 years—is not good public policy. FPA’s outreach to members’ representatives on the Hill and in the states has stated such concerns, paralleling the legal track with the DOC and Biden administration.

Nothing has changed in the intervening years with respect to sourcing the necessary aluminum foil for flexible packaging in the U.S. It simply does not exist. The contemplated outcome of imposing high duties on Chinese foil in the original case—to spur U.S. man­ufacturing—never materialized. Thus, imposing new duties on aluminum foil imports puts at risk the security of our food, pharmaceutical, and medical device supply. It also puts jobs at risk, as current U.S. jobs will have to move offshore to continue to produce this flexible packaging for the U.S. and globally. This will further drive consumer and commercial prices at a time when many Americans are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living.

FPA is a trade association based on protecting and promoting U.S. jobs. We should be on the same side as the DOC and Biden administration. Why aren’t we?

The Biden administration should find ways to work together to improve our country’s competitiveness. Imposing new duties on imports of aluminum foil is simply not the answer. Everybody loses in unfair trade cases, especially the American consumer. Just as in the initial ITC Chinese foil case, new duties and costs to domestic flexible packaging manufacturers are not going to result in any benefits to domestic aluminum foil producers. But the conse­quences will be huge for food and medical insecurity, loss of jobs, and ever-increasing prices on the goods consumers use every day.

Alison Keane signature

Alison Keane, Esq., IOM, CAE President and CEO
Flexible Packaging Association