Editorial from the Peoria Journal Star
Tariffs should be done in a smart, thoughtful manner with the goal of helping the largest number of companies possible.
That’s not what has happened since temporary tariffs were placed earlier this year on newsprint from Canada. One small company in Washington state has reaped benefits while wounding every newspaper in the United States — including this one.
The tariffs started in January after North Pacific Paper Company, owned by a New York-based hedge fund, whined to the feds that Canadian newsprint companies had unfair advantages over those in the United States and it was hurting its business. It’s far from true: The International Trade Commission found that only 4.6 percent of Canadian newsprint enters the Pacific Northwest where NORPAC is located.
Yet the Commerce Department responded to NORPAC’s complaint by slapping tariffs on newsprint coming from Canada. It increased the cost again by 22 percent in March after it concluded that one Canadian-based company was underselling newsprint by that much less. Decisions about whether the tariffs will become permanent are expected in August and September.
NORPAC has been able to hire a few dozen people since the tariffs were put in place while newspapers have had to make tough decisions as to how to offset the increased cost of newsprint. The tariffs have so far added 30 percent to the cost of newsprint for GateHouse Illinois, which publishes the Peoria Journal Star, Springfield’s State Journal-Register, Lincoln Courier, Rockford Register Star and 30 other dailies and weeklies throughout the state.
Like any company facing unexpected expenses we’ve had to make tough decisions, like reducing the number of pages in our print editions or eliminating certain features. It’s likely we will have to make more of those types of decisions if these tariffs remain. We must either raise more revenue or make other adjustments. Neither is a prospect that benefits readers or furthers the mission of informing our community.
It’s encouraging that a bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators have introduced the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act. The PRINT Act would suspend the tariffs imposed in recent months while requiring the Commerce Department to review the economic health of the printing and publishing industries. We hope that in advocating for this measure they also educate the public about why so many newspapers look north for their newsprint.
Newsprint producers in the U.S. have been hurting financially for decades — not because of unfair prices from Canada but because there has been a 75 percent decline in the demand for newsprint since 2000 as news has migrated to digital platforms. Some U.S. companies stopped making newsprint while others switched production to more profitable items, like the cardboard needed to ship the millions of products people order online. Canada is the largest exporter of newsprint in the world. Even if the five paper mills in the U.S. that produce newsprint operated at full capacity, it still would only be able to provide 60 percent of the demand for it in America.
No newspaper is perfect. Yet we remain steadfastly committed to our top priority: Providing the balanced reporting on local issues that our readers need to make informed decisions.
So we ask this tough question: Why should a tariff remain in place to benefit one small paper mill at the expense of so many other businesses across county? NORPAC employs a few hundred people. The printers, publishers, paper suppliers and distributors that represent mainly small businesses throughout America employ more than 600,000.
Our readers need us to stay informed. We ask them — you — to ask Illinois’ senators, Democrats Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, to sign on as sponsors and advocates for this measure too.
Call to Action: Tell Congress to Help Stop Tariffs on Newsprint
One newsprint manufacturer, named NORPAC, has filed petitions asking the government to assess tariffs on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood, which includes newsprint used by newspapers, book publishers, and printers who serve a wide range of businesses and citizens in local communities. It has been opposed by others in the paper industry because they know tariffs will harm their customers and the demand for paper will decrease.
The Department of Commerce has assessed preliminary newsprint tariffs, which range as high as 32 percent. These tariffs are already being collected at the U.S./Canadian border, and printers and publishers are already feeling the pinch with higher prices and disruptions in supply. Local newspapers, printers, and book and directory publishers cannot absorb these costs. This will lead to less jobs and less news and information distributed in local communities. Ironically, it will also mean less demand for newsprint - and fewer customers for the US newsprint producers who the government is trying to protect. Essentially nobody wins.
Get involved today and contact Congress to reject these tariffs to protect US jobs!
Please feel free to use the message below. We have formatted a letter you can send to a member of Congress. This is essential with pushing forward this campaign and demanding action to be taken. You can alter the message if you would like. Either way, please express your opinion to end these tariffs and its negative impact to our jobs, economy, and of course, the newsprint industries!
End Tariffs on Newsprint today!
I urge you to get involved with an important issue that has dramatically impacted not only our community, but our nation’s entire economy. The Department of Commerce recently announced countervailing and anti-dumping duties on Canadian imports of newsprint that ranges as high 32 percent. These duties cannot be absorbed by newspapers and printers, and most likely, will lead to higher prices for readers and businesses, incurring a loss of jobs in the printing and publishing industry at the local level.
This issue started when one newsprint mill in the State of Washington, who is owned by a New York hedge fund, filed petitions for tariffs. The rest of the paper industry opposes the petitions because they know that these tariffs will cause damage to newspapers and printers, and will ultimately reduce the demand for newsprint.
I understand that the trade case is at a critical phase at the International Trade Commission, and that Members of Congress can express their concerns by submitting comments to the ITC on the impact of these tariffs on constituents. I respectfully request that you let the ITC know that this newsprint trade case will cause unintended consequences that will harm our economy and local community, and should be rejected.
Thank you for your consideration of my views.