BlueScope Steel in with a chance of dodging tariff

Port Kembla might have to deal with increased steel dumping in the wake of new US tariffs. Picture: Ken Robertson
Port Kembla might have to deal with increased steel dumping in the wake of new US tariffs. Picture: Ken Robertson

BlueScope chief executive Mark Vassella is confident of the company’s chances of avoiding being hit with the United States steel tariff.

But Mr Vassella also expressed concerns of the problems the tariff could create for the steelmaker’s Australian market.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump confirmed a 25 per cent steel tariff and a 10 per cent impost on aluminium, and said countries had 15 days to argue for an exemption based on security and trading relationships.

While Australia has not yet been granted an exemption, Mr Trump had earlier called the country “a great country, a long-term partner”, and added “we will be doing something with them”.

Mr Vassella said this, along with the recognition of the trade surplus in the US’s favour and a friendly relationship between the two countries, made him hopeful of a positive result.

“We’re encouraged by the fact that he recognised the special relationship of Australia,” Mr Vassella said.

“Obviously there’s more work for us to do but we think that relationship and our unique position holds us in good stead.”

That “unique position” is that  BlueScope imports around 300,000 tonnes of steel into the US each year – not for the open market but to its wholly-owned US business Steelscape for value-adding.

As well as Steelscape, BlueScope also owns the North Star mini-mill in Ohio.

“We employ more than 3000 American workers and have more than $3 billion worth of investment on the ground in the US across 12 states,” Mr Vassella said.

“We believe our unique position puts us in the right frame for the president to consider those special circumstances.”

He added that Port Kembla could face the threat of increased dumping from international steelmakers.

“A concern clearly for us as a domestic manufacturer is the dislocation of any steel out of North America and into other markets,” he said.

“It’s therefore critical that Australia’s anti-dumping regime needs to be even sharper and more robust than it is.”

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