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Newspaper tariffs threaten small-town newspapers

  • Written by David B. Clark
Department of Commerce made a preliminary decision to impose countervailing duties on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper on January 9, 2018. This is the very product that is used by thousands of towns and small cities for their print newspapers.
 
This preliminary decision was made by the Department of Commerce due to a petition that was brought forward by a single paper mill here in Washington. In the city of Longview lies the North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC). This countervailing aspect is only one piece of NORPAC’s two-part petition. The other concerns antidumping duties. Commerce is expected to make that preliminary decision March 8, 2018.
 
“NORPAC’s petition asks for steep import duties in excess of 50 percent on imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada. Such duties, if implemented, could result in steep increases in the cost of newsprint, which would cause widespread harm to local newspapers,” wrote the staff at News Media Alliance. While this makes the newsprint cost go up, it will almost certainly make jobs in the U.S. publishing, commercial printing, and the paper industries go down.
 
“NORPAC is an outlier that is owned by a New York hedge fund operator, with no additional pulp or paper operations in the United States or globally.  Its owners are now seeking government protection through trade sanctions,” wrote Paul Boyle, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at News Media Alliance on January 9, 2018. NORPAC is arguing that the decline of the newspaper market is due to unfair trade. This is simply not the case. Newsprint sales have been steadily declining for a decade due to readership taking the customary swing to digital for news and information.
 
The threat of NORPAC attempting to manipulate trade laws has been recognized by both the Senate and the House with eight members of the former and 34 members of the latter voicing their opposition in way of letters to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross.
 
CEO of NORPAC, Craig Anneberg, stated in a press release on January 9, 2018, “We estimate the impact this ruling would have on the cost to produce the average printed newspaper would be less than $.05 per newspaper – a small price to pay to preserve American manufacturing jobs.”
 
ITC’s preliminary report in September stated, “newsprint tends to be supplied by producers in that region.” Pricing is indicative to the regional marketplace. The ITC’s report stated that over 90 percent of Canadian newsprint comes into the Northeast and Midwestern United States with 4.6 percent entering the Pacific Northwest where NORPAC’s mill and its 260 workers stand. The claim of harm via international trade is thusly incorrect.
 
The U.S. newspaper publishing sector employs more than 175,000 employees in small towns and major cities. This number set against the number of individuals that would benefit from these newspaper tariffs is stark; quite literally thousands to one.

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