MBIE launches steel anti-dumping probes

New Zealand Steel is persisting with its campaign to secure greater protection from Chinese imports, lodging its third complaint that dumped foreign-produced goods are undercutting local manufacturers.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has started two new investigations into Chinese and Malaysian steel products, the third such probe triggered by NZ Steel since it first sought an inquiry in 2016. NZ Steel is owned by Australia's BlueScope Steel.

MBIE general manager science, innovation and international Peter Crabtree this week signed off on two separate investigations: the first into allegations of Chinese subsidies on certain hollow steel products, and the second into claimed dumping of Chinese and Malaysian imports, according to notices published on the New Zealand government's Gazette yesterday.

The ministry has previously rejected NZ Steel's requests to impose duties and other measures on imported galvanised steel coils and steel reinforcing bar and coil from China and Malaysia, finding Chinese government subsidies were too small to hurt domestic producers and that exports from those Asian nations were being dumped locally.

MBIE again agreed there was enough information provided by NZ Steel in its December 6 application to warrant an investigation into the new steel product range. The ministry said there had been "significant increase" in the volume of Chinese and Malaysian imports, with some undercutting that squeezed the local producer's sales and margins.

However, MBIE said the local producer hadn't faced a "significant decline in market share" that could be put down to dumped or subsidised goods. NZ Steel didn't consider it had suffered reduced capacity or detriments to inventories, employment and wages, or provided evidence of an impact on growth or its ability to raise capital.

NZ Steel estimates Chinese products were dumped at 37.9 percent of the export price in the 2017June quarter and Malaysian products at 50.4 percent in the December quarter.

"NZ Steel considers that the primary factor affecting domestic prices is the price of the unfairly traded imports from China (and Malaysia), which undercut NZ Steel prices, causing price depression and price suppression," the report said. "NZ Steel notes that China and Malaysia have collectively about a 75 percent share of imports, with the next largest share being from Australia" which has "significantly higher" prices than the Asian nations.

On Chinese subsidies, MBIE said "the application largely repeats claims relating to subsidy programmes that have been the subject of previous applications considered and investigated by MBIE," but accepted "there is evidence beyond a mere assertion and of a nature and extent that indicates a likelihood of the existence of subsidisation affecting the subject goods".

NZ Steel's latest application has support from Kiwi-owned Industrial Tube Manufacturing, and New Zealand Tube Mills, owned by Amari Metals. The three firms collectively account for a quarter of New Zealand production of the hollow steel products.

Chinese steel exports have been a bone of contention around the world. US and European producers accuse the Asian nation of subsidies and overproduction, undercutting their local industries. US President Donald Trump imposed new tariffs on steel imports last month as part of his more protectionist trade policy.

NZ Steel has disagreed with MBIE's findings in earlier investigations and has so far asked the High Court for a judicial review of the first rejection.

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