UNIONS and manufacturers alike are concerned about US President Donald Trump’s threat to slap tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into America.
Various players told the Newcastle Herald on Monday that the threat was not only to Australian exports: the greater impact would likely be if steel and aluminium priced out of the US market then found its way to our shores, hurting our domestic markets.
Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton said the federal government had to “act swiftly and decisively to save Australian industry” if “irrationally priced, state-subsidised, low-quality Chinese steel flooded the global market”.
“After a period of deep uncertainty, the prospects for steel and aluminium production in the Hunter were finally looking promising,” Mr Walton said.
“If Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t step up and take proactive steps now, those prospects will likely head south. We’ve already lost the BHP steelworks and the Kurri Kurri smelter. It can’t afford to be ignored by a dithering federal government.”
Neither Tomago Aluminium nor the Australian Aluminium Council would speak on the record about the Trump move, but the steel industry’s peak body, the Australian Steel Institute, said it was concerned about the potential for “over-arching US tariffs” to spark “retaliatory trade actions”.
About 80 per cent of Australian aluminium is exported, but mostly to Asia. Australian exports of steel and aluminium to the US total about $500 million annually.
President Trump is proposing import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium.