Com­mis­sion blocks newsprint tar­iffs

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Kevin Freking Associated Press

WASH­ING­TON — In a vic­tory for the Amer­i­can news­pa­per in­dus­try, the U.S. In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion last week blocked tar­iffs im­posed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on im­ported newsprint, find­ing that Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers weren’t harmed by im­ports from Cana­dian pa­per mills.

The news­pa­per in­dus­try had com­plained that the ris­ing cost of newsprint, typ­i­cally their sec­ond­biggest ex­pense, made it harder to op­er­ate.

In July, law­mak­ers tes­ti­fied be­fore the ITC that the tar­iffs were hurt­ing the very pa­per in­dus­try they were sup­posed to pro­tect. That’s be­cause pub­lish­ers were re­spond­ing to the ad­di­tional costs by re­duc­ing the num­ber of pages in their news­pa­pers, thus damp­en­ing de­mand for newsprint, the pa­per used to make news­pa­pers, books and ad­ver­tis­ing in­serts. Oth­ers tes­ti­fied that the higher cost of newsprint had led news­pa­pers to cut staffing and the num­ber of lo­cal events they cover.

“Th­ese tar­iffs were ex­tremely harm­ful to our re­gional papers — the lifeblood of our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted. “ITC made ex­actly the right de­ci­sion to com­pletely elim­i­nate them. I will re­main vig­i­lant to make sure that they never re­turn.”

The Com­merce Depart­ment had im­posed the tar­iffs in re­sponse to a com­plaint from a hedge-fund-owned pa­per pro­ducer in Wash­ing­ton state that ar­gued that its Cana­dian com­peti­tors took ad­van­tage of government sub­si­dies to sell their prod­uct at un­fairly low prices.

The depart­ment had re­vised the tar­iffs lower in a de­ci­sion ear­lier this month, though newsprint buy­ers still would have been hit with an anti-dump­ing levy of up to 16.88 per­cent and anti-sub­sidy du­ties of up to 9.81 per­cent.

But un­der U.S. law, the process for mak­ing the tar­iffs per­ma­nent also re­quires the ITC to find that the U.S. pa­per in­dus­try was harmed or threat­ened by the im­ports from Canada. The com­mis­sion unan­i­mously de­ter­mined that no in­jury is oc­cur­ring.

Mem­bers of a coali­tion of print­ers and pub­lish­ers hailed the rul­ing, call­ing it “a great day for Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism.”

“The ITC’s de­ci­sion will help to pre­serve the vi­tal­ity of lo­cal news­pa­pers and

pre­vent ad­di­tional job losses in the print­ing and pub­lish­ing sec­tors,” said David Chav­ern, pres­i­dent and CEO of the News Me­dia Al­liance.

The North Pa­cific Pa­per Co. had pe­ti­tioned the fed­eral government for tar­iffs to off­set sub­si­dies pro­vided to Cana­dian pa­per mills. The com­pany had told the

ITC that prices had dropped so low for its pa­per that it could not jus­tify keep­ing all three of its ma­chines run­ning. But since the im­po­si­tion of the tar­iffs in Jan­uary 2018, prices have re­cov­ered to the ex­tent that it was able to hire back 60 em­ploy­ees and re­store pay and ben­e­fit cuts made in 2017.

AN­GELA MA­JOR/AP

The cost of newsprint is typ­i­cally a news­pa­per’s sec­ond-big­gest ex­pense.

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