The U. S. International Trade Commission Wednesday rejected import tariffs imposed on Canadian newsprint for the past several months, resulting in a major victory for the American newspaper industry.
“The decision is a big win for news consumers,” said Donna Barrett, president and CEO of CNHI, which operates more than 100 newspapers in 22 states. “It is a great day for everyone who believes in a free and vigorous press in this country.”
Barrett said the newsprint duties were ill-considered, unneeded and only served to require some local newspapers to lay off employees, reduce the number of pages they print and otherwise curtail operations designed to serve the public.
"The market force challenges are not eliminated," said Barrett. "But eliminating the tariffs is helpful."
Newsprint is often the second highest cost in producing newspapers after work force expenses.
The tariffs resulted from a complaint by a Longview, Washington, paper mill (North Pacific Paper Company) that Canadian government subsidies to newsprint suppliers resulted in unfair pricing and dumping of newsprint on the U.S. market. Yet no other American mill or paper company joined the complaint.
In overturning the Commerce Department decision to impose newsprint duties, the ITC rejected the argument that Canadian newsprint prices and supplies were harmful to the U.S. newsprint industry. It said written findings would be released in mid-September.
The tariffs were fought by the American newspaper and the national association for the U.S. forest and paper industry. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle also objected in hearings before the ITC. All argued the tariffs would cause economic hardship at a time the newspaper industry is facing historic challenges from market forces.
All five ITC commissioners voted to reverse the tariffs.
The majority of newsprint used by papers in the U.S. comes from Canada. There are only five newsprint mills left in this country due to the decreased demand for newsprint and the high cost of upgrading or building new plants to manufacture it. Canadian mills provide the bulk of newsprint worldwide.
David Chavern, president and CEO of the U.S. newspaper industry’s Media Alliance, hailed the ITC decision as important to preserving the vitality of local newspapers.
“The end of the unwarranted tariffs means local newspaper 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,” said Chavern.
Craig Anneberg, chief executive of North Pacific Paper Company, said in a statement he was “very disappointed” in the ITC’s decision, “given that the record clearly shows that the dometic industry has been materially injured by dumped and subsidized imports from Canada.”
He said his company would review the commission’s written determination when it is issued and “assess our options at that time.”
Newspaper industry officials were reluctant to predict what will happen with the end of the newsprint tariffs, noting that other market force challenges facing the newspaper industry remain.
“Newspaper publishing is still a tough business,” Paul C. Tash, chief executive of the Tampa Bay Times, told the Washington Post. “But this is a good day, not just for newspapers but for the communities that depend on us as a civic asset.”