Newsprint tariff at the discretion of DOC

WASHINGTON — The Department of Commerce can legally use its discretion to mitigate the impact of proposed tariffs on newsprint so that job loss from a proposed set of duties on Canadian paper is minimized, a group of publishing organizations told the DOC in February.
The National Newspaper Association joined with News Media Alliance, the Association of American Publishers, the Local Search Association, the Book Manufacturers Institute and printing companies in a meeting with the Director of Commerce’s Office of Policy and Strategic Planning. The organizations are part of a coalition formed to combat proposed tariffs—Stop the Tariffs on Printers and Publishers—STOPP.

By Tonda F. Rush
National Newspaper Association

Because of a petition in the summer of 2017 by Washington State printer, NORPAC, preliminary duties are already being collected at the border from Canadian newsprint producers. Most have announced price increases to printers of as much as $30 a ton to pass along the effects of the tariffs.
Investigation into NORPAC’s allegations—that U.S. paper mills are being harmed by Canadian government subsidies, and that paper is being dumped into the U.S. from Canada—is now underway by the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission. The STOPP coalition is working together to demonstrate that the duties will create greater harm to the newsprint market.
The preliminary duties being collected now average about 6.5 percent, but NORPAC seeks a 50 percent tariff overall. Another set of preliminary duties could be levied in early March when a decision on the dumping petition proceeds to the next step.
Under the law, the investigations are required to proceed. STOPP has told the Commerce Department that NORPAC missperceives the causes of failing newsprint demand, and that the causes are related to digital conversion and not unfair trade practices. Ironically, NORPAC, which was recently purchased by a New York venture capital firm, serves the Northwest, while nearly 92 percent of Canadian paper is shipped to the Northeast and Midwest. So, printers and publishers across the country could be burdened with paying for the tariff if a single company in a regional market succeeds in its petition. Most of the U.S. newsprint producers oppose the petition.
NNA President Susan Rowell, publisher of the Lancaster (SC) News, said members of Congress will hear from community newspaper executives during the March 15 Community Newspaper Leadership Summit. Congressional delegations will have the opportunity to submit their views to the ITC later this spring.
“This tariff investigation is unbelievably wrong-headed,” Rowell said. “For the larger newspapers, a tariff will simply push their business plans faster into digital publication. For the smaller ones, I am afraid we will see some closures because so many of our smaller papers are already in fragile economies. At either end of our industry, the net result will be a loss of jobs, and the closure of a newspaper will create a domino effect of job losses in local communities as local businesses lose their primary marketing tools. Trade policy is supposed to create jobs, not kill them. We have pledged to fight this petition strenuously and to protect our communities’ local papers.”

Tonda F. Rush is public policy director and general counsel for the National Newspaper Association.