It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we’re against proposed tariffs on Canadian newsprint.
As Sam R. Fisher, the president and CEO of the Illinois Press Association, wrote in an editorial earlier this month, trade laws and, ultimately tariffs are designed to protect American interests and jobs. Protecting the American economy is a concept everyone can agree on.
But, as he also said, this action would have the opposite effect.
Here’s a little background:
According to the National Newspaper Association, newsprint is one of the grades of paper in a category called uncoated groundwood paper or UGW. And, most of the newsprint used in U.S. newspapers is manufactured in Canada and has been for many years.
Over the past decade, many newsprint mills in the U.S. and Canada either closed or converted to other paper products as U.S. newspaper publishers cut demand. Today, the United States requires 75 percent less newsprint today than it did about 10 years ago, according to the NNA.
So, along comes the North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC) to propose tariffs on UGW. The company said Canadian producers were violating trade laws in two ways. First, according to the NNA, they were allegedly receiving government subsidies through such channels as government loan assistance and permission to harvest trees on government land. And, second, they were selling paper in the U.S. too cheaply compared to prices for other nations.
NORPAC said its paper mill was injured by these practices. As a result, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission are investigating these claims.
Only time will tell what they find, but it’s interesting that NORPAC doesn’t have much support. Even the American Forest and Paper Association, the industry organization for U.S. paper producers, does not support NORPAC’s case.
The IPA doesn’t support it. The Southern Illinois Editorial Association doesn’t support it. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, wrote a letter to the Department of Commerce last week against it.
“I support the Administration’s efforts to combat illegal trade practices and ensure American companies are able to operate on a level playing field with their international competitors,” Durbin wrote. “However, I am concerned that tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper from Canada have the potential to harm domestic industries and cause a loss of American jobs. It is my understanding that a majority of domestic newsprint manufacturers and consumers, including trade associations such as the American Forest and Paper Association and News Media Alliance, are opposed to this petition.”
When the Trump Administration proposed the tariffs in January, even a group of eight Republicans — which included Sens. Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins — spoke out against it.
Newsprint is one of the bigger expenses newspapers have. If newsprint prices continue to go up, more people are going to lose jobs. That’s a simple fact. Nobody can dispute that.
“From a purely business viewpoint, these tariffs might help with a handful of jobs in one state while costing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs across the nation,” said David Porter, president of the Southern Illinois Editorial Association, in a statement released this month.
We realize this comes across as us whining to get things to go our way. However you see it, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that these tariffs make it harder for newspapers to operate — plain and simple.
And then what happens? Other than jobs being lost, the increased costs get passed on to subscribers. The rates for subscriptions get higher — something that nobody likes — and customers aren’t happy. It affects everybody.
As Fisher stated earlier, we’re all for trade laws that protect American jobs. Who wouldn’t be? But, this tariff doesn’t do that, and that’s why it has generated little support.
We can’t let a single company dictate trade laws — especially when that trade law could affect so many people and so many good newspapers in our region.