Australia’s car industry up in arms over proposed steel import tariff

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s proposed tariff on imported steel has angered the country’s automotive industry, who claim domestic supply is not adequate.

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After an investigation in response to BlueScope Steel’s complaint that hot rolled coil is being dumped in the local market, the Australian customs recently proposed to impose a tariff of up to 15.45% on imported HRC.

“Toyota Australia’s preference is to purchase steel from local manufacturers whenever possible. While we do source some steel from BlueScope, it is not able to supply the grade and quality of steel that we require for some applications and we have no choice other than to import,” a spokeswoman told Steel First.

“The introduction of a tariff would have an impact on our costs and profitability. We strongly believe that imported steel should be exempt from any new tariff if we cannot source the required product locally,” she added.

A spokeswoman for Ford Australia said the company has voiced its opinion to the government but declined to give further comments.

Matt Hobbs, director of government relations at GM Holden, told Steel First his company is “concerned” that the tariff would apply.

BlueScope, a major steelmaker in Australia, lodged the complaint against HRC imports from Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan with Australian customs in May.

Another major Australian steelmaker, Arrium, earlier this week rejected a takeover bid put forward by a consortium led by Posco and Noble Group. BlueScope will face increasing competition if the deal goes through eventually.

“I think it could have a significant impact on BlueScope Steel because Posco obviously produces competing flat products. The impact would arise if Posco took control of Arrium’s Australian distribution network and used it to begin exporting a lot more of its flat products into the Australian domestic market,” a Syndey-based analyst previously told Steel First.

Neither BlueScope nor Arrium responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.