The future of the local steel industry should not be threatened by unfair market tactics, the Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet assured around 200 delegates at the Australian Steel Convention in Canberra on 10 September. He committed himself do everything he can within Government policy parameters to work with the steel industry as it confronts the challenges facing all Australian manufacturers with the Australian dollar at parity with the US and strong competition coming from growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region. “Australia needs a competitive, sustainable steel industry into the future and a Government which supports that,” he said. “The Government has responded to the steel industry’s push for greater use of Australian Industry Participation Plans and we are open to do more in this area.” “We have also instituted the most significant reforms to the anti-dumping regime in over a decade, consistent with responsible economic management and within the constraints of the World Trade Organisation. “Access to the anti-dumping system has been improved, compliance strengthened, timeliness and decision making improved and consistency with other countries increased,” Mr Combet said. Strengthening Australia’s competitiveness and productivity was the theme of the address to the Convention by the President of the Business Council of Australia, Tony Shepherd. Mr Shepherd believes that the Government needs to press ahead with reforms that will enhance the flexibility of the economy, but it is important to take the public along in the development of, and debate about, those policies. “Higher productivity does not mean lower wages or longer hours,” he said. “The country which enjoys the highest productivity growth currently also has some of the highest incomes in the world. Improved productivity comes through greater investment in innovation, new products and new ways of working.” US Consul-General to Australia, Niels Marquardt outlined the prospects for continuing economic growth in the largest economy in the world and the impact this would have on Australia. “Australia’s greatest friend and benefactor in terms of investment in this country is the USA,” Mr Marquardt said. “Australia receives more direct investment from the US than China and Southeast Asia combined and the bulk of exports that Australia sends to the US market are elaborately transformed manufactured goods.