Many of you would be aware that the imposition of anti – dumping and countervailing duties on the exports of aluminium extrusions from China have created a number of issues in Australia. However some very recent developments overseas serve as a useful reminder that such issues are part of a global problem and that in considering trading in goods, thought should go to any global issues as they can often flow through to Australia at short notice and ruin even the best – laid plans.
- As many would be aware the export of aluminium extrusions has not only attracted the imposition of anti – dumping duties but also countervailing duties. The latter arises from certain grants and programs in China which were found to be subsidies of the type to support the imposition of countervailing duties.
- In Australia, the measures have been in place for some time. A significant issue has arisen in recent years where Customs has taken the position that the duties should apply to the import of "kits" to support solar panels – which served as a surprise to the importers who had never anticipated that the duties were intended to apply to the kits.
- We are acting for a number of importers of the kits endeavouring to persuade Customs that the duties should not apply to these goods. This has included work with representatives of the renewable energy industry such as the Clean Energy Council, at all levels in Canberra. We would be happy to work with more importers in these endeavours.
- The Anti – Dumping Commission (ADC) is conducting the first (and so far only) anti – circumvention investigation into alleged steps being taken by exporters and importers of aluminium extrusions to "circumvent" the measures. The ADC has been granted several extensions to undertake the Investigation.
- In December 2014, the Federal Government announced another set of reforms to the Anti – Dumping Regime which included more proposed focus on these types of subsidies and circumvention activity. The latter was perhaps a slight surprise given that there has only been one Investigation into alleged circumvention and that a Senate Inquiry into the efficacy of our anti – circumvention measures has yet to be completed and reported on. Which certainly emphasises the political interest in the issue.
- More recently the ADC issued a Notice advising that the current measures imposed on aluminium extrusions are due to expire in October 2015 and seeking submissions as to whether the measures should continue. No doubt, Australian industry will be seeking an extension of the time for the measures and hopefully those importing aluminium extrusions in kits for the solar industry will be preparing submissions to the effect that even if the measures continue on certain goods they should not apply to goods imported on "kits" given that the original application for the measures did not contemplate concerns in relation to such kits.
- In the last week, the US has initiated a further complaint at the WTO against China in relation to the types of grants and programs provided in China which have led to the imposition of countervailing duties on aluminium extrusions as well as on other products. This evidences an ongoing concern about the practices.
- Also in the last week, there have been reports from the US as to negotiated settlements imposing significant penalties on importers of aluminium extrusions into the US. This is based on steps taken by the importers to avoid the US duties (similar to ours) by transhipping through Malaysia and fraudulently claiming them to be of Malaysian origin to avoid the imposition of US dumping and countervailing duties.
The events are not unique to aluminium extrusions. They apply equally to other products imported to Australia such as aluminium road wheels, stainless steel sinks and other products where there are similar measures imposed elsewhere in the world. For example in Australia there is a Customs investigation underway in relation to aluminium road wheels, based not on anti – circumvention but alleging fraud in claims that the wheels came from Malaysia when the view is they actually came from China in a scheme to avoid the current measures. Further, today (17 February 2015) Customs announced the commencement of prosecution action against a number of parties relating to the importation of goods the subject of anti-dumping duties (although the goods are not identified). The charges allege obtaining a financial advantage by deception, the use of fraudulent documents and giving false or misleading information to Customs.
This emphasises that traders need to pay attention not just to current or proposed measures in Australia, but also measures imposed on the goods overseas as, given the similarity of legal frameworks, those overseas measures may well be sought and introduced here.
As always we would be pleased to assist in all or any of these issues here – whether in relation to the general imposition of dumping and countervailing duties, to defending against duties being sought on aluminium extrusions, to new legislation being imposed, to defending prosecutions, through to submissions on the possible extension of measures on aluminium extrusions or the establishment of an "early warning radar" on measures which could be sought in Australia to affect imports currently seen as free of such measures.