Local workers in the NSW steel manufacturing hub of Port Kembla are pleased Australia has been exempted from controversial US steel tariffs but concerned the local market could be flooded with cheap imports.
While Canberra negotiated its way out of the 25 per cent tariff on steel sold to the US, some Wollongong workers are now worried other countries will dump their previously American-bound metal in Australia.
‘We don’t want the cheap steel, we need to keep our own industry buzzing along, we don’t want our own market flooded,’ Port Kembla business owner Renay Horton told AAP on Monday.
‘It does open up the case of cheap steel being dumped here. That may be an issue and we may need to keep an eye on that.’
Speaking in the coastal town earlier in the day, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government was working to prevent countries from dumping their steel into Australia.
‘We are very vigilant to ensure that there is a level playing field,’ the Liberal leader told reporters at the gates of BlueScope Steel.
‘We’ve given our Anti-Dumping Commission stronger powers, we’ve given them more money to ensure that they are able to protect Australian industry from unfair practices.’
Australia imposed steel tariffs on Greece, Thailand, Indonesia, Spain and Taiwan last week.
Mr Turnbull said he saw no contradiction in championing free trade on the world stage while imposing price-hikes on steel imports at home.
‘We are passionately committed to free trade, but it’s got to be fair, that’s the key,’ Mr Turnbull said.
‘This is not about protectionism, this is not about putting up trade barriers, this is simply ensuring that the trade is fair.’
BlueScope chief executive Mark Vassella thanked Mr Turnbull and the government for their work lobbying US President Donald Trump for the steel exemptions.
‘In recent times on the back of a strong economy and strong markets, we’ve been in a position to employ more people which is a great outcome for this region,’ Mr Vassella told reporters.