Publishers are urging Congress to pass legislation that would halt tariffs on Canadian-imported paper, which industry leaders say is driving up costs on an already vulnerable industry.
"The (Trump) Administration's tariffs on newsprint out of Canada in favor of one mill based in Washington state is causing a significant cost increase for the newspaper industry in Connecticut,” said Chris VanDeHoef, executive director of the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association.
VanDeHoef went to Washington, D.C., earlier this month with representatives from several newspapers, including the RJ Media group — owner of the Record-Journal and the Westerly Sun — to press the state’s Congressional delegation to support the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act, or PRINT.
Representatives from the Hartford Courant, The Day in New London, Central Connecticut Communications, and Hearst Media also participated in the trip.
The act would suspend new tariffs currently being imposed on imported uncoated groundwood paper from Canada, the primary source of newsprint and other paper used by newspapers, book publishers and commercial printers. It would also require the U.S. Department of Commerce to review the economic health of the printing and publishing industries.
“As a Senator representing one of our nation’s leading papermaking states, I have consistently fought for actions to ensure a level playing field for the domestic papermaking industry,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who co-introduced the bill. “In this case, however, one domestic mill owned by a venture capital firm appears to be taking advantage of trade remedies to add to its own bottom line, putting thousands of American jobs at risk.”
The North Pacific Paper Company, based in Washington state, claims Canadian subsidies created an unfair advantage.
In early January, the Commerce Department determined that Canadian uncoated groundwood paper was subsidized from 4.42 percent to 9.93 percent.
“Today’s preliminary decision allows U.S. producers to receive relief from the market-distorting effects of potential government subsidies while taking into account the need to keep groundwood paper prices affordable for domestic consumers,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in January. “The Department of Commerce will continue to evaluate and verify the accuracy of this preliminary determination while standing up for the American business and worker.”
Craig Anneberg, CEO for North Pacific Paper Company, said he “strongly disagree(s) with the notion that their industry requires low-priced, government-subsidized, imported newsprint from Canada to sustain its business model.” He also said the cost to the publishing industry would be minimal, and that the increase is “a small price to pay to preserve American manufacturing jobs.”
The News Media Alliance, however, said tariffs on newsprint have been as high as 32 percent, endangering jobs in the newspaper, print, and publishing industries.
VanDeHoef said Anneberg’s characterization is a “gross oversimplification,” and that newspaper, book, and commercial publishers have found an inadequate supply of the paper they need from American mills.
“It’s not a booming business,” VanDeHoef said. “It’s cheaper from the Canadian producers.”
Shawn Palmer, RJ Media Group senior vice president and chief revenue officer, said the tariffs range between 20 and 32 percent, depending on consumption, and that they are especially burdensome on independent and family-owned companies.
“The impact of these tariffs are significant for our entire industry, especially for family-owned community newspapers like the Record-Journal and The Westerly Sun,” Palmer said. “If they are not dismissed it will be impossible for us to continue without affecting how we cover our communities, which in many cases rely on us as their primary source of local news and information.”