A second blow against community newspapers was announced this week by the U S Department of Commerce in the form of heavy tariffs on the North American paper supply.
A preliminary decision in an anti-dumping case brought last summer by northwestern US producer NORPAC came from the Department on March 13. Commerce said it was ordering duties up to 22.16 percent on Canadian newsprint production, to be added to the January assessments of 4.4 to 9 percent from a related case on countervailing subsidies.
NNA President Susan Rowell, publisher of the Lancaster (SC) News, said the announcement was an indication that the final outcomes of the trade cases could deal a debilitating blow to the newspaper industry. Paper producers have already announced significant price increases in an attempt to absorb the duties.
“This is an extremely unfortunate development and it just demonstrates how a too-mechanical application of trade policy can be turned on its ear to damage the US economy,” Rowell said. “Canadian producers supply most of the US newsprint, and they will continue to do so in an industry where new newsprint mills are highly unlikely. The Commerce Department simply misunderstands the nature of the newsprint markets today if it believes that heavy duties are going to somehow stimulate new US production. Large newspapers will move more rapidly to digital and smaller newspapers will simply be unable to afford the increases.
“We are painfully aware that some newspapers will not survive this upheaval. For those who do, it will be at the expense of a diminished news mission. Our readers, customers and community will pay the price, just so NORPAC, one small mill in Washington state, can use trade laws to a very temporary advantage. Long term, we will all lose.”
Rowell said the decision arrived just as publishers from nearly 30 states are arriving in Washington, DC, to take their complaints about the trade case to Capitol Hill.
“Congress must get this train back on the right track,” she said. “Already many in Congress have expressed their alarm, and noted the potential for major job losses as a result of these trade cases. We need our elected representatives to stand up for community journalism right away, and explain the realities of the newsprint world to the trade analysts.”
National Newspaper Association represents about 2,400 members, primarily small-town weekly newspapers across the United States. It was established in 1885. NNA is a member of the STOPP Coalition—Stop the Tariffs on Printers and Publishers.