“It’s a competitive market and as you know we love competition, we like free trade, we like open markets, we’re committed to them.”

That was Malcolm Turnbull when he arrived in New Delhi in April, when he declared about India: “it’s time for us to take our relationship to a new level.”

Well, not so much, if you’re an Indian steel exporter.

The Anti-Dumping Commission is where complaints about foreign companies selling cheap products to Australian companies are investigated, often leading to the imposition of anti-dumping tariffs that drive the price of goods up for Australian business and consumers. The favoured industry for such protectionism is steel, where Australian business face significant additional costs ($2 billion per annum) to prop up Australian companies like Bluescope and Arrium and taxpayers and state governments, who face higher construction costs on infrastructure projects. 

Bluescope is a serial complainant about its foreign competitors, despite reporting a 79% jump in December half year profit to $359 million back in February, lifting its dividend by a third and approving a share buyback. Last year Bluescope complained about Indian, Malaysian and Vietnamese galvanised steel being imported to Australia. An investigation was announced by the Commission in October and the affected exporters had until November to respond. Then in January the Commission would announce its view on whether dumping was occurring, ahead of a recommendation to the relevant minister in March.

But then the Commission decided to give itself an extension of time — 90 days — in January. The Commission then decided in April it needed to give itself yet more time after demanding information of the Indian government. But it was definitely going to report by May 10.

Well, you wouldn’t pick it, but on May 8, the Commission gave itself yet another extension, this time to the end of May.

In fact, 17 times this year alone, the Commission has announced it was giving itself an extension on anti-dumping investigations. Not so good for business certainty or investor confidence. And all to study why companies are committing the apparently egregious sin of helping Aussie businesses and people building infrastructure keep prices down.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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