Labor welcomes reports that the US is considering Australia’s request for an exemption from President Trump’s proposed harsh import tariffs – especially for steel and aluminium.
The import tariffs currently under consideration would be crippling for Bluescope Steel Australia which exports up to 400,000 tonnes of steel from Port Kembla to the United States.
This would also have a similar impact on Australia’s aluminium industry.
Australian manufacturers already face an uneven playing field; to have more tariffs imposed would only exacerbate their situation.
These discussions come at a time where steel and metal producers are under intense pressure domestically from rising energy costs and a global oversupply of steel and aluminium from China.
Even if Australian steel is exempt from a Trump tariff – there is a risk that a US tariff on steel from other countries could lead to cheap steel being dumped here in Australia.
Labor has consistently made the case for measures to strengthen Australia’s anti-dumping regime, to ensure our industries aren't disadvantaged by the dumping of foreign goods into Australian markets.
Labor also took to the election a suite of policies aimed at supporting our local steel industry, especially in local procurement decisions.
Australian steel producers should be given the best opportunity to participate in all Federal projects.
This includes using Australian steel for the nation’s rail industry which is set to see $45 billion of procurement orders in the next 5 years.
While these discussions are a step in the right direction, steel and aluminium producers need more than a nod and a wink from US officials to be certain they won’t be the target of Trump’s tariffs.
Labor eagerly awaits the detail of these important negotiations.