First, the bad news. As reported elsewhere in this issue, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross is recommending that import
tariffs on steel mill products and wrought and unwrought aluminium be increased, following investigations carried out under the 1962 Trade Expansion Act.

If Trump agrees, then global aluminium imports will be subjected to a 7.7 percent tariff, while some imports will attract a higher 23.6 percent tariff, notably those from China and Russia. Steel mill products could see either a general 24 percent tariff or a 53 percent tariff applied to 12 named countries. Quotas have also been mentioned.

The proposed actions reflect an overcapacity in world steel production with cheap steel being ‘dumped’ in the US. The aluminium industry has suffered, as imports have risen to 90 percent of US domestic demand.

This may justify the tariff increases, but certainly not for the highly-specialised products used by canmakers. These products are no threat to US national security, which was what prompted the investigations.

Letters to Donald Trump from the canmaking industry and its food and drink industry customers explain the serious impact that tariff increases could have on the profitability of the US metal packaging industry.

Trump may consider this and take a generous view. After all, the new tax laws seem to have been beneficial, as the recent financial results have shown. Fingers crossed then.

That’s some good news, but there’s more.

Ball Corporation reported its highest-ever year-end sales of almost $11 billion in 2017, showing how its acquisition of Rexam and rigorous cost savings have paid off. And it’s not just the leading canmakers that are doing well, as we see in this month’s analysis.

While Paraguay is to get its first beverage can plant, we hear that a mothballed beverage can facility, built at Baghdad, Iraq in 2011, has been revived.

Canmaking is looking up, particularly in China and all this and more will be highlighted in May at Cannex Asia Pacific in Guangzhou. You have to be there.

John Nutting