To be fair we need to stop people dumping on Australia
President Barack Obama’s speech to the Australian Parliament, like those of his predecessors, was indeed an historic occasion.
Amidst the hype and ceremony, I can’t help but wonder if a couple of Labor Ministers didn’t squirm a little in their seats as the President reminded us: “We seek trade that is free and fair. And we seek an open international economic system, where rules are clear and every nation plays by them.”
In a reference to the G20 and the World Trade Organisation, which just days earlier had welcomed Russia to its ranks, the President stressed: “We need growth that is fair, where every nation plays by the rules – where workers’ rights are respected and our businesses can compete on a level playing field… so no nation has an unfair advantage.”
The President is right.
But it is exactly this premise that Labor Ministers Craig Emerson and Brendan O’Connor attacked when they came out with all guns blazing to criticise the Coalition’s policy to strengthen Australia’s anti-dumping regime.
This column doesn’t allow for a detailed explanation of all aspects of our policy, which Tony Abbott and I released earlier this month. But you can check it out here.
The bottom line is that, after extensive consultation, it’s very clear that Australia’s current anti-dumping laws are too cumbersome, slow and expensive to be truly effective.
Firstly, let’s make one thing clear – anti-dumping laws are not an anathema to free trade.
The dumping of goods for less than they could be sold for in their country of origin is not “trade”. It’s an attempt to exploit our commitment to free trade and it distorts our domestic market.
And while cheap goods for consumers may seem an attractive proposition on the face of it, in the long term the practice of dumping drives competition down and ultimately prices up.
Just as effective regulation of the financial sector helps preserve the integrity, strength and long-term stability of the system, so too a decent anti-dumping regime is essential for the well being and long-term stability of our local industries – particularly the manufacturing sector.
There’s been a lot of speculation about the future of Australian manufacturing. I believe our manufacturers have the ingenuity, determination and ability to succeed – we can absolutely be a nation that makes things to sell on both the domestic and international markets.
But our Government must ensure that foreign government subsidies and the illegal activities of overseas businesses do not undermine our local industries. And that’s where a strong anti-dumping regime comes in.
Not only did Emerson’s and O’Connor’s attacks on our policy show an incredible apathy towards the plight of businesses affected by dumping, it also showed a stunning ignorance of the WTO’s anti-dumping agreement (to which Australia is a signatory).
Without getting too technical – their main gripe was with the “Preliminary Affirmative Determinations” (PADs) at the heart of our policy, which allow for swift action and shift the onus of proof on the offending overseas business, rather than Australian industry. Yet, these PADs are entirely constituent with Article 7 of the WTO agreement.
In their shrill attack on our positive policy solution, this Government demonstrates a failure to comprehend their responsibility to help facilitate as fair and level playing field as possible.
Business groups and trade unions like the Australian Steel Institute, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, AUSVEG, Ausbuy, and the CFMEU have all now endorsed our tougher stance on anti-dumping.
We can only hope that this, coupled with the views of the Leader of the Free World, may prompt Emerson and O’Connor to rethink their dismissive attitude. For the sake of local industry, this Government needs to introduce more effective anti-dumping measures – like the ones we’ve worked with industry to develop and outline in our policy.
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