Watchdog to fight cheap import dumping

The Gillard government will set up an ''anti-dumping'' watchdog and double the number of investigators to tackle what is says is a tripling in suspected cases of foreign firms selling off goods below cost price to hurt Australian businesses.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the move Tuesday amid concerns that global economic weakness and the high Australian dollar are making Australia an attractive destination for overseas firms looking to offload surplus goods while undercutting local businesses.

''It's directed at making sure that our great manufacturing businesses get a fair go and that there is a cop on the beat that can enforce the rules,'' she said.

Speaking in Melbourne, Ms Gillard also denied that any interest rate cut announced Tuesday by the Reserve Bank - one is expected by most economists - would be a signal of a weak economy.

''We have a resilient economy. We have come through testing times,'' she said. ''The economy, as the Reserve Bank itself says, is growing at around trend growth. The Reserve Bank is obviously making a decision looking at the whole of the economy, the strength of the Australian dollar and what that means for all sectors of the economy.

''But you can't just do one simple snapshot ... Look at all of the information: low unemployment, low inflation, economic growth, strong public finances.''

The new anti-dumping measures include a commission to investigate complaints, a $24.4 million funding boost over four years for customs to deal with cases, a doubling in the number of investigators and stricter penalties against overseas firms that deliberately circumvent Australia's anti-dumping rules.

Ms Gillard made the announcement at OneSteel, which has successfully fought an anti-dumping case.

''We know from businesses like OneSteel ... that this is a challenge for Australian manufacturing and for Australian jobs,'' she said.

Ms Gillard said that manufacturing was responsible for nearly 1 million high-skilled jobs in Australia, as well as a quarter of the nation's business R&D expenditure, a third of traditional trade apprenticeship completions and nearly 30 per cent of exports.

A taskforce headed by former Victorian Premier John Brumby recently released a report that found the incidence of dumping into Australia was very likely to increase.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said Australia was an appealing destination for dumping.

''We've seen an increase in the number of goods that have been dumped into Australia,'' he said, though he was unable to quantify it by value or weight of goods.

''There's goods out there looking for a home. Australia is an attractive option because the dollar is high and because our economy is so strong,'' he said.

This story Watchdog to fight cheap import dumping first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.