Thursday, April 5, 2018

Trump's tariff on Canadian newsprint could cripple or kill some struggling newspapers in the northeast

One of the (hopefully unintended) consequences of President Trump's recent tariffs is that print newspapers in the northeast, already hurt by a changing economy, will suffer a new blow that could prove fatal to some of them.

By Frank Brill
EnviroPolitics Editor

David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, explains:

Every day at the News Media Alliance headquarters, a stack of newspapers arrives for myself and the staff. But with the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission currently considering tariffs on Canadian newsprint, those days of screen-free reading could be coming to an end.

The fact that newsprint is being threatened is the work of one newsprint mill in the Pacific Northwest, NORPAC. In August 2017, NORPAC petitioned the United States Department of Commerce to begin applying tariffs to newsprint imported from Canada, claiming the imported paper was harming the U.S. newsprint industry. But NORPAC is not acting in the best interests of newsprint consumers or the U.S. paper industry at large — they are acting in their own interest and no one else’s.

The buying and selling of newsprint has always been regional without regard for the border. Consumers of newsprint — from newspaper and book publishers to telephone directory manufacturers — tend to buy newsprint in their region, close to their printing operations. The printers who typically utilize Canadian newsprint are those in the northeast and Midwest, where there are currently no U.S. mills operating.


But those regions are not newsprint deserts because of unfair trade by Canadian paper mills. Rather, newsprint mills shut down or converted to producing other, more profitable paper products when the demand for newsprint fell, something that has been happening steadily for decades. Since 2000, the demand for newsprint in North America has dropped by 75 percent.

But affordable Canadian paper has helped keep the printed news alive and flourishing well into the 21st century. With new tariffs, many smaller newspapers will feel their belts tightening. The combination of preliminary countervailing and antidumping duties increases the cost of imported newsprint by as much as 32 percent, and a number of newspapers have already experienced price increases and a disruption in supply. If the International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce make these tariffs permanent in the coming months, it could lead some small local publishers to cut their print product entirely — or even shut their doors.

Some, like NORPAC, may argue that by imposing duties on Canadian imports we’re saving American jobs and boosting our own economy, but while that may sometimes be true for other industries, the opposite is true of newsprint.



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