Industry welcomes dumped steel crackdown

The federal government will launch a new trade authority to crack down on foreign companies which dump products, including steel, on the Australian market at cut prices.

BlueScope estimates that steel products dumped in Australia from Asia cost the company $100 million last financial year.

Chief executive officer Paul O'Malley said that figure was set to increase if dumping of steel products continued.

He applauded the reforms announced yesterday and said they would send a "strong deterrent message" to foreign manufacturers.

"What the government has signalled today is very strong support for fair competition, which is very good for Illawarra jobs," he said.

"When product comes into Australia that is unfairly priced, that affects our ability to sell product out of Port Kembla and clearly the economics of our business, so what is good for Australian demand is good for the Illawarra."

Dumping occurs when goods are imported to Australia at less than their normal value, putting pressure on manufacturers already facing challenges including the high Australian dollar.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday announced a new Anti-Dumping Commission would be set up to investigate complaints.

Other measures included a $24.4 million funding boost for Customs over four years, doubling the number of investigators, plus stricter penalties against foreign companies that tried to circumvent Australia's anti-dumping rules.

"Australian manufacturing can only be strong if it gets a fair go and a level playing field," Ms Gillard said.

The government said its reforms followed a review headed by former Victorian premier John Brumby which found dumping into Australia was likely to increase.

Throsby MP Stephen Jones said the measures would support the Illawarra's steel industry.

"Without these new measures, the local steel industry faced an uphill battle to deal with dumped steel from countries in the Asian region," he said.

BlueScope, which has lobbied for reform, has already taken complaints to Customs.

Earlier this year, Customs imposed securities on hot rolled coil products from Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan in response to BlueScope's allegations, confirming the company had suffered.

The matter is now before the Minister for Home Affairs.

Customs is also investigating BlueScope's allegations relating to galvanised steel and aluminium zinc coated steel products from China, Korea and Taiwan.

Opposition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella claimed the reforms were a "copy of Coalition policy" and the government should abolish the carbon tax if it wanted a level playing field for manufacturers.

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