By Grace Dobush
August 30, 2018

The U.S. International Trade Committee (USITC) voted Wednesday to overturn President Donald J. Trump’s tariffs on Canadian uncoated groundwood paper—newsprint—in a major win for newspapers across the country.

The committee said the import of Canadian newsprint does not harm U.S. paper producers. In fact, the tariffs actively harmed U.S. businesses, as their introduction in January caused prices to spike by as much as 30% and led newspapers to reduce page count and frequency and lay off workers. Florida’s Tampa Bay Times cut 50 jobs earlier this year; as publisher Paul Tash told CNNMoney the tariffs cost the newspaper $3 million they couldn’t cover.

Pushback from the newspaper industry was swift, but the tariffs were initially only eased slightly. The Commerce Department had capped the highest tariff at about 17%, down from 22%. That highest tariff only applied to one Canadian business based near Vancouver, a few hundred miles from the U.S. company that petitioned the Commerce Department for the tariffs—Northern Pacific Paper, or Norpac, which employs about 300 people and is owned by private equity firm One Rock Capital.

Norpac said the tariffs helped balance the playing field with subsidized Canadian companies. CEO Craig Anneberg said in a statement: “We are very disappointed in the USITC’s negative determination, given that the record clearly shows that the domestic industry has been materially injured by dumped and subsidized imports from Canada.”

The New York Times reports that New York-based One Rock bought the mill in 2016, likely paying a premium in hopes that it could make the case for tariffs and boost the business’s revenue, according to paper industry insiders. Now it appears they lost that bet. The International Trade Committee will publish more details on the decision on October 8.

But the newspaper industry was relieved by the decision. “Today is a great day for American journalism. The ITC’s decision will help to preserve the vitality of local newspapers and prevent additional job losses in the printing and publishing sectors,” David Chavern, the president of the News Media Alliance, said in a statement. “The end of these unwarranted tariffs means local newspapers can focus once again on playing a vital role in our democracy by keeping citizens informed and connected to the daily life of their communities.”

The damage done to the newspaper industry by the tariffs, sadly, may be irreversible.

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