Bishop: Govt trusts Trump's word on steel, aluminium tariffs
FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop has told Gladstone workers the Federal Government is doing everything it can to ensure their jobs aren't impacted by a potential trade war between the United States and China.
US President Donald Trump last month announced he had decided to impose substantial tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, of 25 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
Gladstone depends heavily on those industries for local jobs, with thousands of people's employment supported by Rio Tinto, QAL and Boyne Smelters, as well as a small local steel industry.
Visiting Gladstone business Purcell's Engineering yesterday, Ms Bishop said she "absolutely" expected the Trump Administration to keep a commitment it had made to exempt Australia from the tariffs.
"Both of those products are very important here in Central Queensland," she said.
"Through the Prime Minister's advocacy and that of other ministers we were able to gain that exemption and that's a huge win for Australia."
Ms Bishop said ongoing tensions between the United States and China over trade should be settled "in accordance with the rules-based international order".
"It's in no country's interests for there to be a trade war of any description," she said.
With the majority of aluminium imported by Rio Tinto into the United States coming from Canada (also expected to be granted a tariff exemption) a Rio spokesman asked about Gladstone workers said "there's been no suggestion of job impacts".
But chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques last month told a Committee for Economic Development event in Melbourne he hoped "that common sense will prevail" when it came to the broader effects of a potential trade war.
"Until we've got clarity about the way forward then everyone is going to be nervous," Mr Jacques said.
"The best way to create wealth that reaches everybody is through trade. So any barriers on trade, we could have a massive issue."
Even with the exemption, ongoing tensions between the United States and China have raised concerns Australia could be used as a "dumping ground" for steel and aluminium that would have otherwise been sold to the United States.
64 per cent of Australia's current anti-dumping measures are related to the steel industry, while 9 per cent of those measures relate to aluminium imports.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten last month called for tougher action to prevent illegal dumping, in which companies try to circumvent anti-dumping laws by misclassifying goods.
Labor has proposed a tripling of anti-dumping circumvention penalties and an increase in funding to the Anti-Dumping Commission, which would also be given powers currently held by the Productivity Commission.
"It's industrial towns like Gladstone that feel the brunt of the dumping of cheap steel and aluminium into the Australian market," Mr Shorten said.
"Labor's tough anti-dumping protections will help protect thousands of local jobs at Boyne Smelter and QAL."
Ms Bishop said the government already aimed to ward off illegal dumping practices.
"Of course we ward against that," she said.
"We use anti-dumping provisions, we access the World Trade Organisation."
A spokeswomon for Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation Senator Zed Sezelja said the Coalition Government had introduced a range of legislative and operational anti-dumping reforms between 2015 and 2017.
The reforms included a new investigation model aimed to improve the timeliness, quality and evidence base of investigations.