Trade war ‘lose lose lose’ for Australia business: Chris Bowen

Trade war ‘lose lose lose’ for Australia business: Chris Bowen

Rachel Baxendale

Reporter - Canberra


Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen says any trade war sparked by Donald Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports would result in a “lose, lose, lose” situation for Australia, and the Turnbull government has Labor’s full support in trying to do anything it can to get “sense to prevail” in the United States.

Mr Trump announced 25 per cent and 10 per cent tariffs on steel and aluminium imports on Friday, declaring “trade wars are good and easy to win” in a series of tweets over the weekend.

Canada and the EU have threatened to retaliate, with Mexico, China and Brazil also considering their options.

Mr Bowen said now was a time for “cool heads”, and for governments and alternative governments around the world to point out the dangers of protectionism and the benefits of trade.

He said there were three key issues for Australia.

 “There’s obviously first the direct impact on Australian industry. We export about $240m worth of steel and $70m worth of aluminium to the United States, so that’s significant, it’s material,” Mr Bowen told ABC radio.

“I think secondly ... just the general impacts of a retaliatory trade war, and thirdly indirectly, is even if Australia got somehow an exemption, which doesn’t appear likely to happen, there would still be other countries affected who then might dump their product into Australia, damaging the Australian industry here, so this is lose, lose, lose, and the government would have the full support of the Labor Party for anything it can do to try and get sense to prevail in the United States.”

Asked whether Australia should retaliate with its own tariff walls if cheap foreign steel is dumped here, Mr Bowen said we should look at all options.

“As I said, the government would have the support of the Labor Party for anything it does to convince the United States, and if that’s not successful then obviously the government would be within its rights to consider what comes next,” he said.

“We just spent some time talking about just how damaging a trade war would be, but obviously if things emerged such as what I was just concerned about a few moments ago, about other countries dumping products into Australia, then there would be a process then that comes into place in anti-dumping measures which would need to be very, very seriously considered.

“A trade war here will be very damaging to everybody involved, including the United States, and this is a matter where all governments around the world are fully entitled to press the Trump administration on what should happen, and most particularly nations like ours who we are told are key strategic allies of the United States, we would need to see that reflected in a detailed policy response, not just in words and sentiment.”


Copyright 2007