Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Australian Unions push for a "Buy Australian" plan for the steel industry

On 17 April 2009, the Australian Workers Union (AWU) released a 10 point Plan which would entail the Australian Federal Government assisting to save the Australian steel industry through Government purchasing, loan guarantees, production bounties, tax breaks and action against dumping

The AWU pointed to the loss of thousands of jobs at Australian companies OneSteel and BlueScope steel and commented that the industry faced its biggest threat since the Great Depression on the 1930's.

The AWU suggests that in addition to the GFC being a factor, the Australian industry was suffering from the dumping of product by Indian and Chinese producers. This was made worse by the fact that one of the Australian producers cannot take anti dumping action following undertakings given to our ACCC at the time of its merger with Smorgon Steel in 2007. The AWU called on the Federal Government to initiate dumping action which it is allowed to do under our provisions but has chosen not to do, leaving dumping action to local producers.

The AWU did not endorse bans or higher tariffs but did call for preference to be given to Australian steel in taxpayer - funded projects in a manner reminiscent of a recent US proposal. However at that time many countries (including Australia) lobbied hard to resist such preferences. Australia invoked the concepts in the FTA between the US and Australia in claiming that the US measures would breach that FTA (as well as being a bad protectionist move and contrary to WTO provisions).

The Plan received unsurprising support from Australian producers and from members of the Federal Government representing areas affected by the downturn in the steel industry.

However in a speech on Monday 20 April 2009, while launching EFIC's second Global Readiness Index, our Trade Minister seemed to come out against such protectionist measures. This was also unsurprising given the recent Australian resistance to the similar US measures. It was an interesting approach from the Trade Minister given that he was previously the leader of the Australian Trade Union movement and that some of his Parliamentary colleagues wee supporting the measures.

The reference to the Anti Dumping measures is also timely given that our Productivity Commission has now been tasked to undertake a comprehensive review of our Anti Dumping and Countervailing Regime - whether it serves our interests and how it can be improved.

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