A trade policy promise made by the Coalition could breach World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and affect free trade talks with Japan and China according to trade expert, and former ambassador to the WTO, Alan Oxley.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott promised to protect Australian suppliers by making it easier to enforce anti-dumping actions against unfairly cheap imports that are seen to damage Australian companies in the marketplace, The Australian Financial Review reports.
Abbott promised to ‘reverse the onus of proof’ in anti dumping cases, a move which Oxley says will break WTO trade rules, which state that authorities “shall not impose an unreasonable burden of proof."
“WTO rules clearly say governments must prove there has been dumping. They cannot ask the importer to prove there has not,” said Oxley.
Oxley says that the anti-dumping rules could be applicable in some cases, depending on the specific product affected and when free-trade deals are negotiated with China and Japan. However, Oxley believes that the offer of subsides would be a more effective solution as they are more transparent.
Anti-dumping investigations have skyrocketed in recent years, and almost tripled in 2011-12 within the food, chemical and steel manufacturing sectors.
The Labor government created an Anti-Dumping Commission which seeks to impose duties to address material injury to the Australian industry that manufacturers similar or the same goods.
Importers claim that the new system, which commenced in March, has already made biased anti-dumping judgements.
“What we are proposing as a Coalition is a toughening up of anti-dumping practices,” said Abbott.
“Once a prima facie case has been established, that they are selling at an uneconomically low price, well then rather having to prove your case in order to stop it, it’ll then be up to the person selling-in to prove that there has been no dumping.”
Early this year, the Productivity Commission announced that they will be undertaking two six-month inquiries into whether the food processing industry will need WTO safeguards with an emphasis on the impact of imported processed fruit and tomatoes on Aussie producers.
Major tinned fruit exporters including South Africa, Chile and the European Union rejected Australia’s application for emergency tariff protection stating that the strict criteria stipulated by the WTO has not been met, and that the application for emergency tariffs was completely unjustified.