Our e-alert identified 3 main recommendations following that Review in the Report including:
- that a new anti-dumping authority, agency or commission be established under legislation;
- that the new agency be principally located in a major city, close to a high concentration of Australian industry; and
- that an immediate increase in resources be made available to establish a new agency and ensure a timely resolution of underlying issues.
By a media release also dated 27 November 2012 the Minister for Home Affairs released the Report and committed the Government to "respond swiftly". By way of media release dated 4 December 2012, the Prime Minister (interestingly, not the Minister for Home Affairs) has, in fact, provided a swift response to the Review and the Report.
In the media release (entitled "Anti-Dumping Reforms to Support Australian Industry") the Prime Minister identified that the Government will introduce the following key reforms:
- establish a new Anti-Dumping Commission to investigate complaints;
- boost funding to the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service ("Customs") by $24.4 million over 4 years so that it can deal with cases speedily and fairly – this will almost double the number of investigators;
- make the anti-dumping system easier for small and medium-sized businesses; and
- introduce stricter remedies against overseas producers who deliberately circumvent Australia's anti-dumping rules.
The Prime Minister also announced that the Anti-Dumping Commission will be primarily located in Melbourne although it will draw upon the resources of officers of Customs currently working in the Trade Remedies Division of Customs.
On their own, the various key reforms are welcome and certainly reflect a number of recommendations and submissions we made to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Australia's anti-dumping and countervailing regime and to the Brumby Review. Further, the comments by the Prime Minister in her media release correctly identify anti-dumping measures to be essentially about ensuring competition and stopping unfair trade practices by overseas producers (rather than those actions being "illegal"). However, some of the other rhetoric in the media release which talks of "support for Australian industry" taken together with the rhetoric associated with the 3 anti-dumping bills which passed through Parliament recently (also the subject of our e-alert of 27 November 2012) may give the impression that the Federal Government is taking a specific stand in favour of Australian industry against overseas exporters to protect Australian businesses and employment. All of which could be construed as being protectionist in nature. Certainly, commentary in today's national press suggests that certain experts in the field do hold this view.
Putting to one side the rhetoric and the concerns as to how these measures will be viewed here and overseas, the announcement of the new Anti-Dumping Commission does raise some additional intriguing questions. Namely, who would be appointed to head the Anti-Dumping Commission, whether officers of the Trade Remedies Division of Customs will be staying in Canberra or will be moving to Melbourne to assist the Commission and where Customs will find the additional number of investigators required? As always, we will keep you informed of the many and varied developments in this area. There has certainly been an increase in anti-dumping and countervailing investigations of recent times and all economic indicators suggest that large amounts of unfeasibly cheap overseas production may be headed towards Australia as one market which may be able to afford to pay for those goods thanks to a strong Australian dollar. As a result, more focus will be placed on Australia.
This will all create significant new pressures for importers, exporters, freight forwarders, customs brokers and manufacturers. We will continue to provide updates and would be delighted to assist with specific issues for specific clients.