The Australian Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice Jason Clare on Wednesday launched the new Australian Anti-Dumping Commission in Melbourne, triggering contradictive reactions among business leaders and scholars in the country.
"The commencement of the commission, and appointment of Commissioner, are two of the more public aspects of a sizable body of work delivered by the government, as part of a program to strengthen Australia's anti-dumping system," Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said in a media release.
Dumping is defined when foreign producers export goods at prices below "normal value" in the country of origin. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of complaints about dumping in Australia tripled. Dealing with this spike in complaints is one of the reasons the new commission has been launched.
According to local media ABC News, Clare indicated the new commission has taken action on investigating a wide range of imported goods from its launch day.
"In recent times we've seen investigations into the building industry: steel, aluminum, timber; but we've also seen dumpings happen with food products. We've got an investigation which kicks off today into peaches imported from South Africa and tomatoes imported from Italy," Clare was quoted as saying.
Australia's Anti-dumping Commission also received a budget of 24 million Australian dollars (21.96 million U.S. dollars), which will double the number of investigators working on anti-dumping cases to make it easier and cheaper for local producers to raise claims.
Willox suggested that it is not protectionism, just leveling out the playing field. "What Australian industry here is saying is that we don't want to restrict access from foreign competition, we just want a fair go to be applied globally."
However, some economists and researchers do consider that this upward tendency of anti-dumping will harm the domestic industry and consumers' benefits eventually.
"Dumping itself is not a sufficient cause under Australian law for putting in place anti-dumping measures. It is also necessary to show that the dumping caused, or at least threatened to cause, 'material injury' to a domestic firm or industry. Dumping is not illegal under World Trade Organization rules," said Stephen Kirchner, a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, from his latest research report.
According to Kirchner, despite the majority of connotations, real dumping just means that foreign producers are offering Australia low prices for imported goods and both Australian consumers and producers benefit from those lower prices.
But Willox still insists his standpoint to disagree with argument that consumers lose out if dumping is restricted.
"It may, at a superficial level, benefit consumers on price. But they won't be necessarily guaranteed an equivalent product in terms of quality. It may be that cheaper price will inevitably lead to job losses within Australia because local companies can't compete. So over the longer term, dumping is very corrosive to the Australian domestic economy," said Willox.