The veracity of Chinese steel dumping and trade threats

Depending on who you listen to, the whole Chinese steel issue is one big beat-up, or it is an area of true concern.

The Government’s sensitivity over the relationship with China was  evident yesterday as Ministers retreated into no comments over allegations that China was threatening trade reprisals on New Zealand.

The threats emerged in the “Sunday Star Times” which claimed that highly-placed sources confirmed China was applying pressure in an attempt to sway regulators at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Trade (MBIE) away from imposing anti-dumping or countervailing duties on cheap imported Chinese steel.

The paper also quoted “unscreened” comments from China’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Wang Lutong who said there was no issue with the imported steel quality but the embassy had been discussing the industry’s concerns with New Zealand authorities.

Questions to MBIE Minister Steven Joyce on the issue were referred to Commerce Minister Paul Goldsmith, who would not confirm or deny whether a complaint from China had been received.

It has been clear since Whaleoil broke this story on Saturday that people at all levels are trying to hose this one down, but rather unsuccessfully.

Perhaps the most intriguing comment over the China relationship came from NZ First Leader Winston Peters, a former Foreign Minister, who asked whether the Chinese had learned the details of the anti-dumping case being discussed within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment by “listening devices”.

There is a real fear in Wellington that China can place such devices in Government offices, and POLITIK is aware of one office which plays a key role in many trading decisions and which routinely has the GCHB sweep its offices for such devices after it has been visited by a Chinese delegation.

What all this shows is that though New Zealand has clearly developed a good relationship with China, it is not an easy relationship or one that can be taken for granted.

That may well explain the reluctance to comment on the steel dumping allegations.

There seems to a be a genuine panic as to how the Chinese got hold of this information when the complaint is not yet formalised.   In a practical sense, the New Zealand government is getting some high-level posturing that means: “Are you sure you want to pick this fight?”

If we like to sell our milk and produce into China, we damn well have to take the steel, whatever state it is in, and we’ll like it.  Or else.

 

– Richard Harman, Politik


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