Newsprint tariffs nixed: 'Great day for American journalism'
WASHINGTON — The United States International Trade Commission voted Wednesday to remove tariffs on newsprint, finding that the pricing practices of Canadian companies did not materially harm the U.S. newsprint industry.
The newspaper industry had complained that the rising cost of newsprint, typically their second-biggest expense, made it harder to operate.
"The tariffs were oppressive," said Ken Nelson, publisher of the Post Bulletin. "It is great that they were reversed and should give newspapers across the nation a little breathing room. Now we have to wait and see if the mills are going to adjust our newsprint prices."
In July, lawmakers testified before the ITC that the tariffs were hurting the very paper industry they were supposed to protect. That’s because publishers were responding to the additional costs by reducing the number of pages in their newspapers, thus dampening demand for newsprint, the paper used to make newspapers, books and advertising inserts. Others testified that the higher cost of newsprint had led newspapers to cut staffing and the number of local events that they cover.
The decision is good news for newspaper and printing companies concerned about rising costs and shrinking revenues after the advent of digital media. David Chavern, the president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, a nonprofit organization that represents nearly 2,000 news organizations in the United States, lauded the end of the "unwarranted tariffs."
"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," Chavern said in a prepared statement.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Minority Leader, also released a statement in support of the rollback.
"These tariffs were extremely harmful to our regional papers — the lifeblood of our local communities," Schumer said. "The International Trade Commission made the exactly right decision today to completely eliminate them. I will remain vigilant to make sure that they never return," Schumer said.
The tariffs were put in place after the North Pacific Paper Company lodged a complaint against Canadian companies, claiming that Canadian government subsidies hurt profits. The paper mill, known as NORPAC, testified that the tariffs helped them re-hire 60 full-time and part-time employees.
"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," NORPAC CEO Craig Anneberg said in a prepared statement. "We intend to review the USITC’s written determination when it is issued in a few weeks, and we will assess our options at that time."
NORPAC, which is owned by New York hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners, was the only one of the five paper mills in the United States that produce newsprint to claim alleged subsidies were detrimental to business.
After the preliminary tariffs were enacted, The Tampa Bay Times announced layoffs of around 50 people, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reduced newspaper delivery to five days per week.
Two entities undertake the process of instituting tariffs and determining their levels: the ITC and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Earlier this month, the Commerce Department ruled in favor of NORPAC by finalizing tariff levels as high as 17 percent.
An ITC statement said a full report on the commission’s findings will be released in a Sept. 8 report.