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Australia shying away from steel fight with the US.



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Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600  Phone (02) 6277 4363  Fax (02) 6277 8596 Available at www.stephenmartinmp.com

Wednesday, 26 June 2002

AUSTRALIA SHYING AWAY FROM STEEL FIGHT WITH THE US

The New Zealand Government’s decision to challenge US steel tariffs in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) leaves Australia conspicuously absent from the steel trade fight.

In one corner, Japan, South Korea, China, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway and the 15 nations of the European Union have lined up to establish a WTO panel to investigate the highly damaging US tariffs. In the other corner, the US.

Australia is dithering on the sidelines.

Let us remember that President Bush’s 5 March decision to impose 30% tariffs on steel imports was designed to prop up inefficient American producers, at the cost of efficient steelmakers in Australia and elsewhere. Around $100 million in Australian steel exports remains at risk from the tariffs.

On 6 March, the Minister for Trade promised to “look at the options available” to Australia, including a WTO challenge. When pressed, he has repeated that promise over the last 3 months.

But Australia must now be declared missing in action.

And the action is significant. A WTO challenge is the only way the world’s steel exporting nations can overturn the Bush Administration’s protectionist trade measures. It is inconceivable for Australia to sit idly by while so many other countries join together for the fight.

However, the long silence is making Labor wonder where the Howard Government intends to line up: with the Australian steel industry, or on the Bush Administration’s reserve bench.

More Information: Amanda Walsh on (02) 6277 4363 or 0411 734 569.

Shadow M inister for Trade and Tourism Federal M em ber for Cunningham

H o n D r S te p h e n M a rtin M P