Consumers may be paying the price of aluminum tariffs in the near future, Rep. Ron Kind said Tuesday after a tour of Crown Beverage Packaging in La Crosse.
Kind, D-La Crosse, met with employees and officials of the aluminum can plant during the first stop of his Grown in Wisconsin tour, during which he plans to visit with local businesses, manufacturers and students regarding the repercussions of recent tariffs on the rural economy. Tariffs could have a $38 billion impact on the region, Kind said.
President Trump signed tariffs in March on aluminum and steel from China first and then Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Tariffs of 10 percent on aluminum and 25 percent on steel imports have caused those countries to introduce tariffs on U.S. imports in retaliation. According to the Commerce Department, in 2017 more than 60 percent of the aluminum supply in the U.S. was imported, the majority from Canada, as was approximately 33 percent of the steel.
Kind concedes there is “no question China has been cheating,” and that the country’s overcapacity of steel was of concern, but disagreed with the actions of the administration, suggesting this would have been an opportunity to create an international coalition.
“Tariff wars don’t work for anyone,” Kind said.
Crown Beverage Packaging, which has served La Crosse for 52 years and employs 120, manufactures more than six million aluminum soda and beer cans daily, and while the company is currently “holding their own,” according to Kind, the inflation of raw product costs may result in a 10 percent to 12 percent increase in cost to the consumer. Losing business to the plastics industry is also of concern.
“Crown could find themselves in a less competitive position,” Kind said.
Crown representatives said Tuesday they would not be offering comment.
Kind also toured City Brewery, which employs up to 500 locals, in early July, stating the tariff could lead to annual cost increases of hundreds of millions. The dairy and cranberry industries, as well as Harley-Davidson, may also suffer.
“Wisconsin businesses and manufacturers rely on open markets to sell and buy materials and products. It is important we work together to help them succeed by protecting their access to these markets,” Kind said.
Osseo Republican Steve Toft, who is running against Kind in the November election to represent Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District, said he agrees with the members of Congress of both parties who say that President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies are causing pain, especially in the state’s agriculture industry.
“Tariffs are not a good idea,” Toft said Tuesday during a phone call with the La Crosse Tribune editorial board. “We need the free market to provide a level playing field.”