Beer Institute Backs Bill to Regulate Publishers of Aluminum Prices

Beer Institute praised Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for reintroducing the Aluminum Pricing Examination (APEX) Act.  The measure would  give the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Department of Justice "jurisdiction over markets that set or report reference products for aluminum premiums."

What markets might this cover?  The primary market is the London Metals Exchange.  Also affected: The CME Group, which on which contracts for Aluminum Midwest Premium contracts are established.  It's hard to see how the CFTC will exercise jurisdiction over the London exchange, and it already is the primary regulatory of the U.S. futures and options on futures markets.

As to the "report reference products for aluminum premiums" provision," CME also reports futures prices. As noted above, CME is already regulated by the CFTC.

The only other reporters of prices for Midwest Premium are a handful of specialized information publishers, one being S&P Platts and the other being MetalMiner.

According to the Beer Institute press release, "no federal agency has direct oversight of businesses that assess and publish the Midwest Premium."  So, it would appear that the target of the Baldwin-Cotton APEX bill is Platt's and MetalMiner.

But attempts to regulate those publishers would appear to run afoul of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment Freedom of the Press provision.  Midwest Premium is a term for the price of aluminum supplied to the Midwest U.S.  Platts and its competitors provide independent assessments of where this price falls each day in this regional market.  

Platt's says the Baldwin-Cotton APEX Act isn't needed and adds that  the CFTC has already refuted beer industry claims, namely that there are "pricing irregularities" in Platts Midwest Premium price assessment.  It adds that former CFTC Chairman Giancarlo was asked about
these claims recently before Congress, and testified
that “we monitor that very carefully … we have not
found manipulation.”

Brian Crawford, Beer Institute president, says "aluminum is the largest single input cost in American beer manufacturing, and this legislation will provide pricing clarity and certainty to countless U.S. industries, and to many American consumers, that depend on aluminum, including beer."

But the problem doesn't appear to be reporting or publishing aluminum prices.  Rather, according to the Beer Institute press release, the problem appears to be that U.S. brewers, among others, are paying "a tariff-burdoned price regardless of whether the metal was meant to be tariffed based on its content or origin."

If the problem is tariffs, why not get rid of the tariffs?  Last July, the CEOs of four of America’s largest brewers sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to repeal Section 232 tariffs on aluminum. The letter said, “tariffs reverberate throughout the supply chain, raising production costs for aluminum end-users and ultimately impacting consumer prices.”

On Wednesday (6/7), Cotton and six colleagues sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging the administration to revise tariff exclusion rules previously approved for aluminum extrusion products. The letter detailed how the Department of Commerce’s General Approved Exclusion Rules have placed unnecessary burdens on domestic aluminum manufacturers and has facilitated a surge of foreign imports.

“As a result of these exclusions, extruded aluminum imports have risen 82% and American producers have lost millions of tons of possible sales since 2019. Foreign market penetration now exceeds 25%, the highest level in over a decade," the senators wrote..