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The United States In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion will vote Aug. 28 whether to make the U.S. tar­iffs on Cana­dian paper im­posed by the Trump's ad­min­is­tra­tion per­ma­nent. The ra­tio­nale be­hind the de­ci­sion will be made pub­lic Sept. 17.

The Com­merce Depart­ment is set to make its fi­nal de­ci­sion on the mat­ter by Aug. 2. If both bod­ies rule that the tar­iffs are needed, they will be­come per­ma­nent.

The pre­lim­i­nary tar­iffs were im­posed ear­lier this year after a pe­ti­tion from the North Pa­cific Paper Com­pany (Nor­pac), a pa­per­mill in Wash­ing­ton state.

At a com­mis­sion hear­ing July 17, a group of 19 bi­par­ti­san mem­bers of Congress ar­gued that the pre­lim­i­nary tar­iffs were caus­ing dam­age in the mar­ket­place as higher newsprint costs were forc­ing news­pa­pers to cut con­sump­tion by low­er­ing page counts, re­duc­ing days of de­liv­ery and, in some cases, mov­ing from print to digital dis­tri­bu­tion.

“I sup­port strong trade rem­edy laws that pro­tect Amer­i­can jobs and in­dus­tries; how­ever, in this par­tic­u­lar case, the tar­iffs are harm­ing the very U.S. in­dus­try they are sup­posed to pro­tect,” said Se­na­tor Su­san Collins (R-Maine). “The tar­iffs will hurt the U.S. paper in­dus­try be­cause they will cause per­ma­nent harm to news­pa­pers, print­ers, and book pub­lish­ers, shrink­ing the U.S. paper in­dus­try’s cus­tomer base.”

Collins in­tro­duced a bill in May to halt the tar­iffs for an eco­nomic im­pact study. An iden­ti­cal House bill was in­tro­duced by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota).

“Lo­cal news­pa­pers aren’t just any busi­ness – they are vi­tal parts of Maine com­mu­ni­ties, and im­por­tant par­tic­i­pants in our democ­racy,” said Se­na­tor An­gus King (I-Maine). “How­ever, the new tar­iffs un­der con­sid­er­a­tion by the ITC threaten to cause per­ma­nent harm to these lo­cal cor­ner­stones, while also im­pact­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­can jobs in the U.S. news­pa­per busi­ness and paper man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, which are al­ready op­er­at­ing on ra­zor-thin mar­gins.”

Paul Tash, chair­man and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times, and An­drew John­son, pub­lisher of Dodge County Pion­ier (Wis­con­sin), were among those tes­ti­fy­ing against the tar­iffs at the hear­ing.

“To­day at the ITC hear­ing it was clear from the tes­ti­monies that the buy­ing and sell­ing of newsprint is a re­gional mar­ket that falls along East and West bound­aries, not North and South,” said David Chav­ern, pres­i­dent of the News Me­dia Al­liance. “The com­mis­sion heard from pub­lish­ers, newsprint pro­duc­ers and 19 mem­bers of Congress that the tar­iffs will do more harm than good. Tar­iffs will ul­ti­mately hurt U.S. pro­duc­ers — in­clud­ing Nor­pac — as their cus­tomers cut de­mand as a re­sult of higher costs. We en­cour­age the ITC to re­verse these unjustified and dam­ag­ing tar­iffs.”

New York hedge fund One Rock Cap­i­tal Part­ners owns Nor­pac. It is one of five mills in the U.S. pro­duc­ing newsprint and the sole com­pany ad­vo­cat­ing for the tar­iffs.

Nor­pac pushed for the tar­iffs in a pre­hear­ing fil­ing to the ITC. “With­out relief, sub­ject im­ports will con­tinue to un­der­cut and de­press U.S. prices, dis­pro­por­tion­ately take vol­ume and mar­ket share, and cause in­jury to the do­mes­tic in­dus­try,” Nor­pac said. Com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives tes­ti­fied that the mill has re­hired 60 full-time and part-time em­ploy­ees fol­low­ing the im­po­si­tion of the tar­iffs.

Four com­mis­sion­ers of the In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion are to vote on the case. Three votes are needed to re­verse the pre­lim­i­nary tar­iffs. A 2-2 tie would go in fa­vor of the pe­ti­tioner.

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