More tariffs announced as WNA, NNA reps head to D.C. to meet lawmakers

Representatives from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association are in Washington, D.C., today to meet with lawmakers during the National Newspaper Association’s Community Newspaper Leadership Summit. Pictured here, from left, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Brian Conlan, senior economic policy adviser, meet with WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett, publisher Kris O’Leary of The Tribune-Phonograph in Abbotsford and Laura Johnson. – Andrew Johnson photo

Representatives of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and publishers from nearly 30 states met with federal lawmakers in Washington, D.C., today to address new newsprint tariffs that could have serious consequences for the newspaper industry.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced preliminary antidumping duties ranging from 0 to 22.16 percent on Canadian imports of untreated groundwood paper, such as newsprint. The new antidumping tariffs are in addition to countervailing duties between 4.4 and 9.9 percent that were announced on Jan. 9.

The preliminary duties were issued in response to a petition filed by the North Pacific Paper Company, which owns a single mill in the state of Washington. Following the ruling, the Department of Commerce instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to begin collecting cash deposits from importers of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada.

Susan Rowell, president of the NNA and publisher of the Lancaster (S.C.) News, said the tariffs could deal a debilitating blow to the newspaper industry. Paper producers have already announced significant price increases to absorb the new duties.

“This is an extremely unfortunate development and it just demonstrates how a too-mechanical application of trade policy can be turned on its ear to damage the U.S. economy,” Rowell said in a press release. “… The Commerce Department simply misunderstands the nature of the newsprint markets today if it believes that heavy duties are going to somehow stimulate new U.S. production.

“Large newspapers will move more rapidly to digital and smaller newspapers will simply be unable to afford the increases,” Rowell said. “We are painfully aware that some newspapers will not survive this upheaval. For those who do, it will be at the expense of a diminished news mission.”

The announcement came right before publishers from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for the National Newspaper Association’s annual Community Newspaper Leadership Summit. Industry leaders met with lawmakers today.

Representing the WNA in Washington were WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett; Andrew Johnson, publisher of the Dodge County Pionier in Mayville, Kewaskum Statesman and Campbellsport News; Tony Smithson, vice president of printing operations for Bliss Communications in Janesville; and Kevin Flink and Kris O’Leary, publishers of The Tribune-Phonograph in Abbotsford, Record-Review in Edgar and Tribune Record Gleaner in Loyal.

Smithson, an adviser for the WNA on production-related matters, was a guest speaker at the NNA summit, offering background information on the North American newsprint market before publishers went to Capitol Hill.

The News Media Alliance said the International Trade Commission will conduct its final investigation in the case in the coming months and called on Congress and the ITC “to reject these harmful tariffs.”

“The announcement (Tuesday) means that publishers and commercial printers will feel more pain in the months ahead, and more than 600,000 jobs across the printing and publishing industry will be threatened,” NMA President and CEO David Chavern said in a prepared statement. “… The duties are in response to a petition filed by one company with a few hundred employees, NORPAC, recently purchased by a New York-based hedge fund.”