Ball calls out Trump on trade

New U.S. tar­iffs sting­ing on both sides of border

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK ash­ley.fitz­patrick@thetele­

Pre­mier Dwight Ball was ac­tive on Twit­ter at 6:30 a.m. Wed­nes­day, di­rect­ing a mes­sage to U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump about trade re­la­tions.

It in­cluded a for­mal let­ter, sent the day be­fore, invit­ing the pres­i­dent to the Broad­way mu­si­cal “Come From Away,” re­fer­ring to new “ex­tremely trou­bling” Canada-U.S. trade poli­cies and “un­jus­ti­fied tar­iffs,” while pro­mot­ing “the virtues of a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship.”

The leader of Canada’s most east­erly prov­ince, a mi­nor voice po­lit­i­cally in in­ter­na­tional trade ne­go­ti­a­tions, Ball told The Tele­gram his ac­tions were in di­rect re­sponse to the use of “na­tional se­cu­rity” as a rea­son for the United States im­pos­ing tar­iffs on Cana­dian steel and alu­minum, and other re­cent com­ments by Trump about the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA) rene­go­ti­a­tions.

The state­ments, the pre­mier sug­gested, haven’t made sense.

“This re­la­tion­ship (be­tween Canada and the U.S.) is not sim­ply a trans­ac­tion,” he told The Tele­gram, say­ing good faith has been built over time and should be ac­knowl­edged.

The point of tak­ing his mes­sage to so­cial me­dia, he said — in one of sev­eral one-on-one in­ter­views with re­porters through­out the morn­ing — boils down to a de­sire to en­cour­age more “ra­tio­nal” trade ne­go­ti­a­tions, and ul­ti­mately see progress on the new NAFTA.

With­out it set­tled, there is un­cer­tainty on mul­ti­ple fronts.

But he is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned over what ex­ist­ing U.S. tar­iffs on un­coated ground­wood pa­per prod­ucts mov­ing from Canada into the United States mean for New­found­land and Labrador. The tar­iffs are some­thing he says could be more swiftly ad­dressed if things were to get back on solid ground with Canada-U.S. govern­ment re­la­tions on trade.

The pre­lim­i­nary tar­iffs on un­coated ground­wood pa­per prod­ucts — in­clud­ing newsprint — re­sulted from in­ves­ti­ga­tions launched af­ter com­plaints to the U.S. govern­ment from the Wash­ing­ton­based North Pa­cific Pa­per Co.

The anti-dump­ing and coun­ter­vail­ing tar­iffs hit New­found­land and Labrador’s only re­main­ing pa­per mill par­tic­u­larly hard when in­tro­duced ear­lier this year. As­sess­ments for the U.S. De­part­ment of Com­merce re­sulted in prod­ucts from the Cor­ner Brook Pulp and Pa­per Mill, a Kruger Inc. op­er­a­tion, be­ing hit with a 32.09 per cent com­bined duty, to pay at the border.

On the other side of the coun­try, Cat­a­lyst Pa­per in Bri­tish Columbia was also hard hit with the tar­iffs.

That com­pany an­nounced on May 25 it is sell­ing its U.S.-based op­er­a­tions — three mills in Wis­con­sin, and op­er­a­tions in Day­ton, Ohio — for US$175 mil­lion, to Nine Drag­ons Pa­per (Hold­ings) Ltd. listed in Hong Kong. It said the trans­ac­tion would al­low it to re-pay a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of its debt.

Ball said the Govern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador has not pro­vided any spe­cific fi­nan­cial sup­ports to the Cor­ner Brook mill while it faces its own losses, at least not to date. He in­di­cated there are ne­go­ti­a­tions un­der­way.

“We’ll see what op­tions we have avail­able to us and what they would look like,” he said. “It’s too early to tell be­cause we’re still talk­ing, and the fed­eral govern­ment right now, as I said, are heav­ily in­volved. But I do be­lieve at the end of the day there’s a re­fund com­ing, so what­ever it is, it would be some­thing that’s in­terim and ei­ther short- or midterm any­way.”

The “re­fund” refers to the re­view of the pre­lim­i­nary tar­iffs still to come, and what the pre­mier ex­pects will be a de­ci­sion ul­ti­mately com­pen­sat­ing for losses.

But apart from the pain felt right now by Cana­dian pro­duc­ers, tar­iffs on newsprint be­ing shipped into the United States have al­ready led to op­er­a­tional changes and lay­offs at Amer­i­can news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing a re­ported 50 job losses at the Tampa Bay Times, to off­set the higher cost of newsprint in that coun­try.

While New­found­land and Labrador’s pre­mier was on so­cial me­dia Wed­nes­day morn­ing, read­ers of the weekly Cape May County Herald in south­ern New Jer­sey were able to ac­cess the lat­est edi­to­rial from man­ag­ing ed­i­tor Al Campbell, about how tar­iffs on Cana­dian newsprint have “played havoc” with lo­cal news out­lets in the United States.

“Large met­ro­pol­i­tan dailies are es­pe­cially squeezed due to the scale of their op­er­a­tions, but it’s no dif­fer­ent at the Herald,” Campbell stated.

“If there ever was a fine ex­am­ple of an ‘atomic fly swat­ter,’ (i.e. over-re­ac­tion to a prob­lem) the tar­iff on Cana­dian newsprint is it.”

Speak­ing with The Tele­gram, Campbell said his pa­per is phys­i­cally printed in Lan­caster, Pa., but print­ers such as the one serv­ing his pa­per have been pass­ing on newsprint costs to lo­cal pa­pers. With­out those pa­pers then pass­ing the cost to cus­tomers, the lo­cal pa­pers feel the fi­nal pinch and have to man­age as they can.

“I can’t un­der­stand why this is hap­pen­ing,” Campbell said, re­it­er­at­ing a point he made in print — that the in­dus­try has long been served by Cana­dian newsprint pro­duc­ers, and the re­main­ing U.S. pa­per mills could run their op­er­a­tions flat out and not meet the de­mand.

There has been a bi-par­ti­san ef­fort launched in the U.S. Sen­ate to try to specif­i­cally ad­dress the newsprint is­sue, fo­cused on the abil­ity of Amer­i­can news com­pa­nies to fairly source the ma­te­ri­als they need.

Spon­sored by Se­na­tor Su­san Collins, a Maine Repub­li­can, the bill for the Protecting Ra­tio­nal In­cen­tives in Newsprint Trade (PRINT) Act would sus­pend the newsprint tar­iffs, and al­low for a re­view of the newsprint busi­ness and the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try’s woes.

What would it mean in the end? The re­sults, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal news re­ports, would be sent to Trump, who would be asked to certify the tar­iffs are in the coun­try’s eco­nomic in­ter­est.


U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.


Pre­mier Dwight Ball.

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