The newspaper industry has enough challenges in the era of fake news and declining print ad revenue; now add skyrocketing paper costs that have spiked as high as 32 percent since October.
Why did that happen? There was no shortage in production, labor disputes or other factors. But there was North Pacific Paper Co. (NORPAC), a mill owned by a New York equity investment firm that filed a petition with the Department of Commerce alleging unfair trade practices by Canadian paper producers. Curiously, nobody else was complaining.
NORPAC’s timing was impeccable with trade war drums pounding in the background with some of our closest allies. These tariffs will invariably boost NORPAC’s profits as it will cull competition from Canada, but nobody stopped to consider the fallout for the industries that rely on paper products.
“When the use of trade remedies threatens the jobs of hundreds of thousands of American workers, it bears asking if the cure is worse than the disease,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., who along with Charlie Crist, D-Fla., introduced H.R. 6031, the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018, or “PRINT Act.”
“Each additional day these import taxes remain in place poses a threat to daily newspapers, printers and the many small businesses that supply equipment and services to the publishing industry,’ said Noem in an op-ed published in our sister paper, Capital Journal in South Dakota. “We need to stem this damage immediately and gain a complete understanding of whether Canadian imports of newsprint are unfairly subsidized or pose a serious threat to U.S. paper producers.”
Stop Tariffs on Printing & Publishing (STOPP), a coalition of associations representing printers, publishers, paper suppliers and distributors that comprise mostly small businesses in local communities was formed to help push the legislation and end the tariffs.
Collectively, these firms employ more than 600,000 workers in the United States. Wick Communications, including this newspaper, are part and parcel. Our CEO and some of our publishers have stepped up to help lawmakers in their states get behind the PRINT Bill with good successes.
If you value newspapers and understand the importance of small businesses to the U.S. economy, we urge you to contact your congressional representatives and tell them to help STOPP, or at least pause the tariff implementation, as H.R. 6031 proposes, until there is a comprehensive study on the downstream effects to allied industries, including newspapers.
The House bill is identical to S.2835 that was introduced by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Me., and Angus King, I-Me., in May.
A final Commerce Department decision is expected on Aug. 2. The International Trade Commission is conducting its own investigation in this case, which includes a public hearing on July 17, 2018. The commission will reach a final determination in mid-September.
Coppola is director of legislative affairs for Wick Communications Co. Eastern Arizona Courier is a Wick Communications newspaper.