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Two U.S. senators from Maine — Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King — recently filed S 2835, legislation that would suspend tariffs on newsprint and other paper imported from Canada. Eight of their colleagues, two Democrats and eight Republicans, are co-sponsors.
We thank them and support the bill because:
• 1. The tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper threaten the financial viability of news organizations that produce print and digital products.
News organizations across the United States fear, rationally, that rising newsprint costs related to the tariffs could eventually force publishers to cut staff, reduce the size of newspapers, raise costs to consumers — or a combination of all three.
We recognize our financial interest in this matter, but none of these outcomes would be good for the workers, readers, advertisers and communities that depend on professional journalism published in print, as so many subscribers still desire, or in digital form.
• 2. The tariffs don’t make sense and are not supported by the vast majority of the affected paper producers in the United States and Canada.
Technically labeled as anti-dumping and countervailing duties, the tariffs were initiated by the U.S. Department of Commerce in response to a petition by one paper producer in Washington state. That’s right: one producer.
North Pacific Paper Co., or NORPAC, which has fewer than 300 employees and is owned by a hedge fund, alleged that the Canadian government subsidizes paper exports. The Commerce Department agreed and imposed the two duties — combined, ranging up to 32 percent — preliminarily in January and March. Final determinations are pending until August.
The newspaper industry isn’t the only one in opposition.
Most notable among the opponents is the American Forest and Paper Association.
“The uncoated groundwood and newsprint market is a North American market, and AF&PA has opposed the request for duties to be imposed on imports from Canada,” the association’s chief executive, Donna Harman, said.
Imports are necessary, in part, because many U.S. companies have abandoned newsprint production in favor of products with higher profit margins.
Nevertheless, consider this: Two of the leading Canadian producers have a total of nearly 4,000 U.S. employees, more than 13 times the number of NORPAC, the petitioner.
More than 600,000 workers in the U.S. are employed in the publishing, printing and paper-producing industries that overwhelmingly oppose the tariffs because of their potential to kill jobs and depress economic activity.
• 3. The tariffs will raise the costs of print advertising on companies with brick-and-mortar stores and businesses.
Print ads remain valuable to local and national companies that sell taxable products and employ millions of Americans.
In sum: The tariffs harm the valuable newspaper industry, are opposed by all but one paper producer and impose unnecessary costs on businesses that rely on print.
As we have stated: If the U.S. goal is to have smart trade, then these tariffs are dumb.