Wikipedia quotes Bob Woodward's Fear : Trump in the White House, writing:

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull successfully lobbied President Trump to get an exemption at the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit, arguing "[w]e do this steel that's specialty steel. We’re the only one that produces it in the world. You've got to let us out. You’ve got a $40 billion trade surplus with us. We’re military allies with you. We’re in every battle with you.

I'm interested in the specialty steel part of the quote. Especially the part "We’re the only one that produces it in the world." Is there a specialty steel that's only produced by Australia or is this made up?

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    @DJClayworth it's a notable claim by someone well-known (at least in Australia), I quoted it and express doubt that it's true. Why would Australia have some special steel that only they produce in the entire world?
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:08
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    Why wouldn't they? There are many, many different types of steel and lots of processes need special versions. Canada certainly produces "specialty steel". Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:14
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    No it's not. There are many, many different types of steel, with very minor variations. It's very likely that there is some specific type that is only produced in one place. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:26
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    @DJClayworth please argue that in an answer if you can support it with a reference. I'm sure this would get closed on politics.se, and I think the same would happen on economics.se. This is a classic is this claim true? question, so they'd point me back here. ;)
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:28
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    I think this is a claim worth examining - I could easily see Turnbull try to fool Trump with a statement which may not quite be a lie, but a bit of hype or exaggeration.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 21:36

3 Answers 3


The Australia-headquartered corporation BlueScope produces specialty coated steel.

For example see ZINCALUME® steel:

Next generation ZINCALUME® steel’s patented Activate® technology introduces magnesium into the aluminium-zinc alloy coating, improving galvanic protection by activating the aluminium. The result is a tougher protective coating that's more resistant to scratches and scuffs encountered during construction.

Since BlueScope is the assignee of some steel production patents, for example US 8840968, others are prohibited from infringing.

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    The only thing special is that no other mil can mark their product "Zincalume". Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 15:25
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    @blacksmith37 that's nothing, only the existence of unexpired patents is significant to my answer. Trademarks are not relavant, but patents require an actual physical, non-obvious, difference.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 15:37
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    Zincalume is nothing. (there would be, what .. 100 .. 10,000 !!?? .. different types of "patented!" "specialty!" steels. An actual question here is, is that the particular product which Turnbull was referring to in the quote? My guess is it is totally unrelated. I've only ever heard of zincalume being used for roofs. @DavePhD , do you have any information at all that this has anything at all to do with what Turnbull was saying?
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 16:25
  • Note too that the sense of the quote is some sort of special steel. (Like, "stainless steel" for example is of course a wonder substance of the industrial era.) there are many remarkable "special steels" with unusual properties. Coated steel is nothing, it's for fences and stuff. I really doubt this has any connection, at all, to the issue a thand.
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 16:27
  • @Fattie he could be thinking more like this: bisalloy.com.au/aboutbisalloy/NewsandMedia/News/… Maybe I will add to answer.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 16:52

There are many specialty steel variants, and no doubt at least some of them are patented by Australian firms and therefore cannot be sourced from other places. Also, the exact composition of the raw materials (any source will leave its trace contaminants) can have an effect on the resulting alloy, and Australian steel mills are going to source their raw materials from other sources than those in other countries, especially they're going to have a larger proportion of raw materials from Australian sources.

So yes, it's quite likely that Australia produces some steel alloys that are unique to its steel mills.

And it's likely that at least some of those alloys are important to US industry in certain applications, else that US industry wouldn't be importing them which no doubt is more expensive than sourcing steel from say China or India, or from the US itself.

Of course you can't prove a negative. It's impossible to prove that none of those patents are being infringed somewhere, anywhere, and leading to another steel mill in say Vietnam producing an alloy that would have identical physical and chemical properties to the point it would be considered the same alloy.

Mind that an alloy is not just defined by its chemical composition but also by its physical characteristics, especially the crystal lattice of the steel (yes, metals have a crystal lattice as well), all of which help define things like tensile strength, brittleness, melting point, electrical and heat conductivity, resistance to corrosion, etc. etc. etc.

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    In fact, an alloy is mostly defined by its physical characteristics. Chemical composition is mainly significant in so far as it affects the physical characteristics (corrosion resistance is the most obvious exception to this). Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:06
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    From a different comment by OP, it seems that they first want to clarify if there is such a thing as specialty steel (not just minor, insignificant differences)
    – Mars
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 9:34
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    @MartinBonner Alloys are not defined by their physical characteristics at all. They are defined by the "cooking recipe" used to make them. There is no way you could attempt to define or identify the 10,000+ different named and well-defined grades of "steel" by their physical characteristics.
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 10:41
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    "Of course you can't prove a negative." This sentence always goes on my nerves. It's so wrong that a professor gave it as an example of a wrong statement in his first lecture of an introductory math class when I started university.
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 19:01
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    Please provide some references to support your claims.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 0:00

Not really ; mixing zinc and aluminum in steel coatings has been around over 40 years. Different compositions will have different physical and chemical/cathodic properties , anyone can claim theirs is the "best". Look in Woldmans' Alloy Index; of the many thousands of listed alloys,possibly half can be called some type of carbon steel - It doesn't take much to copyright an alloy name.

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    So, you're saying it's mostly a technicality? While many entities can have their unique steel, it's a bit of a moot point that it's not that much of a specialty?
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 19:19
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    Please provide some references to support your claims. Is this any more than a comment on another answer?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:46
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    They don't claim it's "the best", as such a thing does not exist. They claim they have a specific product nobody else in the world can provide. You nowhere claim that that's not the case. Sure there are other steel alloys, in fact there are potentially millions, but you'd have to prove that another mill makes exactly the same alloy as this statement is about and you don't.
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 4:53
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    @jwenting Is the point not that they don't provide something no one else can, but that there is nothing special about it?
    – Mars
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 6:10
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    @jwenting That's what I asked OP for clarification. OP's comment on this answer also seems to indicate that OP is asking if there is actually anything special about it
    – Mars
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 6:29

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