High Court orders reinvestigation into Chinese steel dumping

Australian-owned NZ Steel gets a win in the Wellington High Court over the previous commerce and consumer affairs cabinet minister’s decision not to act on steel dumping.
Former Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean.

NZ Steel has won a High Court battle over the previous commerce and consumer affairs cabinet minister’s decision not to act on Chinese steel dumping.

NZ Steel claimed imported galvanised steel coil from China was being subsidised by the Chinese government and this was causing it material injury.

In 2016, it asked then commerce minister Jacqui Dean to impose duties.

The Ministry of Business (MBIE) investigated whether the goods were being subsidised and whether this was causing material injury to NZ Steel.

MBIE advised the Minister that Chinese galvanised steel coil was being subsidised but only to a minimal level (no more than 0.08%, a spokeswoman told NBR) and declared that there was no material injury to NZ Steel.

Following that advice, the minister decided not to impose duties on Chinese galvanised steel coil imports.

However, the report was heavily criticised by E tū at the time of its release, with the union saying it was “extremely disappointed" with the decision.

It claimed there were serious questions about the rigour of the research given only one Chinese manufacturer responded to questions from the New Zealand government.

The decision

Justice Jillian Mallon deemed the minister’s decision “unlawful” and granted NZ Steel’s application for judicial review.

She held that MBIE applied wrong law in deciding whether entities providing alleged subsidies to Chinese producers qualified as "government."

 “The minister’s decision was unlawful because it was based on advice containing material errors as to the proper test for determining whether an entity is a public body, as to the grounds on which overseas investigations had made their findings, and as to the relevance of those investigations as providing a valid source of available information in light of the limited cooperation from the Government of China and the Chinese producers of the subject goods.”

“The minister’s decision is quashed. NZ Steel’s existing application is to be reconsidered.”