Uncertainty about the global impact of a US move to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports on national security grounds has triggered calls to strengthen Australia’s Anti-Dumping Commission to better protect local manufacturers.
Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton said any new tariff barriers in the US would see China “finding a new home” for its steel and warned that Australia was “an easy target”.
Mr Walton said a collective response to “stand up” to China should be thrashed out by OECD nations, saying that any influx of dumped steel on the domestic market would have a “major impact on jobs”.
He said the AWU was looking at ways to strengthen Australia’s anti-dumping regime, including the prospect of having the union initiate cases on behalf of its members. Mr Walton said the dumping of steel on the Australian market had already cost failed steelmaker Arrium about $100 million in loss of business.
“(China) produces half the world’s steel,” he said. “Not only are they directly trying to dump steel from China into Australia but they’re re-routing it through Vietnam with specialist repacking techniques and all the rest.”
A spokesman for Assistant Minister for Industry Craig Laundy said Australia’s anti-dumping regime was already strong and delivered a “level playing field” for manufacturers and producers, noting that 77 per cent of the Anti-Dumping Commission’s current caseload was comprised of steel cases.
“Over the past five years, Australia’s anti-dumping system has been significantly strengthened and improved to ensure fairness in a number of industries, particularly in steel and aluminium products,” the spokesman said.
“Recent operational changes made by the Anti-Dumping Commission have been designed to guarantee the system’s ongoing effectiveness. These include a new investigations model and an active, risk-based approach to circumvention.”
About 50 anti-dumping measures — comprising dumping duties, countervailing duties and provisional measures — have been applied on imports that compete with 14 steel products manufactured in Australia.
Opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr sounded the alarm on the prospect of steep US tariffs on steel imports pushing more cheap produce into the Australian market. He ramped up calls to strengthen the Anti-Dumping Commission, saying a spike in dumped steel could inflict “irreparable damage to our basic manufacturing industries.”
By JOE KELLY