Manufacturers of construction products such as steel and aluminium are set to benefit from a tightening of regulation preventing the dumping of products from China and elsewhere after legislation to implement changes to Australia’s anti-dumping laws passed through both houses of Parliament.

Introduced into Parliament in February, the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Measures) Bill will enable the Minister for Industry to direct the Anti-Dumping Commissioner on the circumstances in which the Minister would be satisfied that exporters from overseas had failed to cooperate with anti-dumping investigations and should therefore be subject to more stringent penalties.

The changes also speed up timeframes for the commencement of investigations and the imposition of penalties, meaning that Australian manufacturers can have alleged instances of unfair competition resolved sooner.

Long a bugbear of leading Australian steel producers, who complain of suffering from artificially depressed prices one world and Australian markets, ‘dumping’ occurs where an exporter from overseas sell goods into Australia below the ‘normal value’ of the goods concerned – typically the domestic price of goods in the country of export.

Both Arrium and BlueScope say the practice – which is not actually illegal but is considered to result in unfair competition and thus the Australian government has the power to impose penalties on exporters from overseas who partake in it – has intensified over the last twelve months amid a worldwide glut of products and has put persistent artificial downward pressure on Australian prices.

Similar concerns are being echoed from steel makers around the world, who complain of excess product from China and South East Asia being dumped on their markets.

Recentley, the European Union imposed a new anti-dumping levy on imports of electrical steel from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

The developments also come as Australia continues to grapple with challenges associated with non-complying products on building and construction projects.

Whilst it does not necessarily follow that all products which have been dumped necessarily fail quality and safety standards, it is likely that a number of them are indeed non-compliant – albeit with dumping and non-compliance being separate issues and separate action being considered necessary in order to combat challenges in each area.

In a joint statement, Industry Minister Ian McFarlane and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science Karen Andrews said the new measures will place a greater onus on overseas producers to cooperate with anti-dumping investigations and help ensure a fairer operating environment for domestic product makers.

“The Government won’t stand idly by while some overseas companies flout the international trading system to injure Australian companies,” Andrews said.

Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Officer Innes Willox said the changes were welcomed by industry and would help promote a fairer system.

Currently, there are 35 active cases of anti-dumping complaints lodged with the Anti-Dumping Commissioner, the majority of which concern products from Asian countries China, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand and Japan.

Most of these relate to steel and aluminium products, although cases also include power transformers and PV modules. Fresh produce items such as tomatoes and mushrooms are also common areas of complaint.