Economy

Mar 6, 2018

Think we’re better than Trump on protectionism? Think again.

We're little better than Donald Trump when it comes to protecting our steel industry. And we're paying for the stupidity.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

You don't need a particularly fertile imagination to think about what would happen if a politician proposed slapping an impost on building materials, which would feed into the cost of everything in the country via higher construction costs for housing, commercial building, infrastructure, mining -- even manufacturing. The outcry would be immediate, the condemnation savage.

In the bizarro world of dumping, however, quite the reverse happens: politicians rush to support each other across the political divide in the quest to make things that businesses across the country use, more expensive.

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16 comments

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16 thoughts on “Think we’re better than Trump on protectionism? Think again.

  1. Frank Brank

    2 billion per year in extra costs in a ? billion a year industry. Surely we need some context here.

  2. Alex

    Bernard assumes that the cheaper cost to the importer/manufacturer/constructor of dumped goods will be passed on to the consumer.

    1. Rocky Horror

      And higher wages to the workforce.

  3. Paul

    Not just steel and not just Refugee policy. The L/NP have been the torch bearer for extremist policies for the past 25 years. All Trump has had to do is read what various L/NP members and supporters have said and done and simply repeat them. The only thing we can feel superior about is that we have given him his strap lines. Even today the L/NP support almost all the things Trump says and does.

  4. Damien

    Just when you think Bernard might have finally twigged to the forces driving anti-establishment populist disaffection, he returns to singing from the same old hymn-sheet.

    I note Bernard seems to broadly support the protection of worker’s rights. But seems to draw a line at the rights of workers overseas who, are routinely treated like disposable slaves to produce the goods cheaply dumped on our “market”.

    I note Bernard has been upset by the regulatory failures of the systems that allow cheap highly flammable imported cladding to be installed on major public buildings. It’s just that he is contemptuous of any “protectionist” measures that, god forbid, police the dumping of cheap cladding.

    Because, obviously, cost is everything and, hey, your apartment block might never catch on fire anyway!

  5. klewso

    Then there’s the TPP?

  6. Dog's Breakfast

    But Bernard, if it isn’t subsidised then it isn’t being dumped, and therefore we are already getting cheaper steel. We are already buying the cheap stuff, just about every bit of wiring is from China, including that stuff that isn’t actually up to standard and burns through and engulfs houses in flames.

    So we aren’t yet responding to Trumps tariffs with our own tariffs, and as I have argued many time, anti-dumping is actually pro free-trade, because trade that is subsidised by another government is not ‘free’, in the economic trade sense. As far as I can tell, if the product is dumped here cheaply because of (rigged) market forces that aren’t about subsidised product, they won’t be caught up in anti-dumping laws.

    Feel free to write an article to clear up for me what anti-dumping actually does, but in other articles it is clearly about products that are subsidised by other governments, in which case this article just conflates what is already pretty confusing.

    As for making submarines, yeah, Australian quality steel please. Don’t care whether you call that protectionism or just being strategic, but there is a point to it.

  7. Concerned engineer

    The logic to your argument is flawless if we trade on a level playing field. Unfortunately as shown by flammable imported cladding, asbestos contaminated imported gyprock sheets, imported electrical cabling with substandard insulation, imported steel with forged chemical composition certificates and cheap “knock off” copies of Australian made louver systems there is a massive problem. Hard to believe that in some trading partner countries the manufacturers are quite happy to supply forged certification for their building products.

    If you want to make a level playing field and protect the pubic from potentially catastrophic failures you need to test all products for local compliance and back charge the testing costs to the importers.

  8. federali

    any stats on what this $2b equates to rela world examples, agree with post above e.g. context.
    How much does this add to a cost of the average house?

  9. federali

    any stats on what this $2b equates to real world examples, agree with post above e.g. context.
    How much does this add to a cost of the average house?

  10. bushby jane

    Ross Gittins wrote a good article in saturday’s Age re fta’s and their effect on people, and basically concluded that they benefit the wealthy and not those of poorer countries who produce the cheaper goods i.e people on lower wages.
    Your simplistic views need revising Bernard, cheaper is mostly not the way to go, and there is really not any such thing as free trade.

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