Address to the International Trade Remedies Forum Meeting
9 September 2016
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Thank you Dale.
I am delighted to be here for your first meeting of 2016.
It’s an honour to have been appointed Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science which brings with it responsibility for Australia’s anti-dumping system.
Minister Hunt and I are committed to working with those who interact with the system to ensure it delivers the right outcomes.
I’m delighted to see representatives from so many industries as well as union and government officials here this afternoon.
For me, this forum is an opportunity to hear from you about what’s working well and what can be improved.
I might set the scene for our discussions by highlighting why the anti‑dumping system is important and how the Government is making it as fair and effective as possible.
Importance of Anti-Dumping System
I should emphasise at the outset that all Australians benefit from free trade and open markets.
Free trade allows Australians to buy a wider variety of goods and services, and it opens up new markets and customers for our exporters.
Australia’s trade with the world was worth nearly $670 billion in 2015 and net exports was the largest contributor of growth to our economy in the March quarter of 2016.
The Government remains strongly supportive of our existing trade partnerships and committed to exploring opportunities for new aggrements. Protectionist policies are not the answer to addressing sluggish economies around the world.
However, whilst we are focused on free trade, we are also committed to ensuring Australian manufacturers can compete on a level playing field.
Trade has to be fair, otherwise we will not see its full benefits.
Dumping and the subsidisation of goods through government intervention can distort markets and injure Australian manufacturers.
The anti-dumping system means Australian businesses can compete on their merits with imported goods and benefit from efforts to reduce costs.
Australian businesses will only succeed when they are competitive, and the anti-dumping system does not shield them from vigorous competition.
The Government will only impose duties where dumping or subsidisation is occurring, and this is shown to be causing material injury to the Australian industry.
These are factual, evidence-based decisions consistent with our World Trade Organization and other international trade obligations.
Exporters have the opportunity to present evidence and arguments and participate in the Commission’s processes.
Commission investigators also conduct on-site visits to ensure they understand the exporter’s production and trading practices and have accurate information on costs and prices.
Steel and Aluminium Report
The Government implemented a first tranche of reforms last year to strengthen Australia’s anti‑dumping system.
We introduced measures to increase pressure on uncooperative exporters and provide more support to Australian businesses engaging with the anti‑dumping system.
We also set up a new investigations unit, improved the processes of the Anti‑Dumping Review Panel, and addressed the practice of overseas businesses circumventing duties by slightly modifying their products.
As you would all be aware, earlier this year the Government also asked the Commission to prepare a report on the impact of Asian steel and aluminium makers in the Australian market.
This reflected concerns about the significant economic impacts that global overcapacity, particularly from Asian steel and aluminium makers, were having on local manufacturers.
The Commission recently completed its report and I’m pleased to announce its release today.
The report found evidence of government interventions in steel and aluminium markets that distort the market behaviours and commercial decisions of producers.
Asian governments are not unique in intervening in steel and aluminium markets.
Many countries, including the US, European countries and Australia, have policies to boost the productivity and competitiveness of these industries.
However, the report finds that the nature and extent of some Asian government interventions, combined with the relative size of Chinese production, have been a significant cause of continuing global overcapacity, excess production and depressed world prices for steel and aluminium.
The OECD has highlighted that excess capacity in one region can displace production in other regions, harming producers in those markets, including through unfair trading practices.
I am pleased to report however, that these issues are well understood by the international community, as we witnessed with discussions held at the G20 earlier this week. I also note that China is seeking to make a very substantial reduction in their production capacity and that these matters will continue to be discussed by governments around the world.
Operational Changes to the Anti-Dumping Commission
I thank the Anti-Dumping Commission for producing this report and for its important work in administering Australia’s anti-dumping system.
The Government is committed to ensuring the Commission has the powers and capabilities to ensure local producers are not injured by unfair competition.
Minister Hunt and I are considering a range of changes to improve the Commission’s operations and the effectiveness of anti‑dumping duties.
In particular, the Commissioner has proposed:
- implementing a new investigations model
- adopting a more active, risk-based approach to address proven circumvention activities
- taking a stronger whole-of-government approach to compliance
- delegating certain ministerial powers.
The Commissioner will talk to you shortly about each of these proposals.
Before handing back to the Commissioner, I would like to conclude by emphasising that we want to create the conditions that grow our economy, create jobs and allow Australian businesses to flourish.
I know that Australian manufacturers are innovative and agile enough to overcome the challenges they face and to prosper from our free trade agreements.
The anti-dumping system is important to Australia because it supports genuine free and fair trade.
We’ve already strengthened the system through a number of reforms, and we’re considering further improvements to make the system even more effective.
I can assure you, the Government will continue to consult widely on this, and I look forward to hearing your opinions this afternoon.