19 lawmakers, Wisconsin publisher urge ITC to reverse newsprint tariffs

ITC hearing room

Photo provided by Andrew Johnson

Nineteen members of Congress as well as newspaper executives, including Wisconsin publisher Andrew Johnson, testified Tuesday, July 17, before the International Trade Commission in opposition to proposed tariffs on Canadian newsprint. They urged the Commerce Department to reverse the preliminary import tax imposed earlier this year, arguing it would harm newspapers, readers and, ultimately, newsprint producers.

The petition was filed by North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), a Wall Street-owned paper mill based in Washington State, and one of five newsprint-producing mills still operating in the United States. No other mill has supported NORPAC’s petition.

Johnson, publisher of the (Mayville) Dodge County Pionier, the Campbellsport News and the Kewaskum Statesman, was one of two publishers to testify Tuesday on behalf of the News Media Alliance. Johnson is president-elect of the National Newspaper Association and serves as president of the WNA Foundation. Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times — which announced in April it was cutting staff by 50 people in response to the tariffs, also addressed the ITC.

> Read Johnson’s entire testimony

Johnson testified that the increases have already caused him to reduce his page sizes, eliminate office hours at one of his newspapers, layoff a staff member and reduce the hours of another. He explained that the increased costs — an estimated $23,000 a year for him — would not just be harmful to his newspaper, but would also hurt local businesses and the community. Expecting advertisers to pay more would be tough, he said, adding they’d be facing less exposure along with increased rates.

He argued the biggest loss would be that of civic leadership in the community, expressing how invested he and his staff is in their community.

“The ironic thing is that forcing newspapers to cut pages, reduce days of delivery or go out of business will not help the one U.S. newsprint producer that is supporting these tariffs,” Johnson said.

Four ITC commissioners are expected to vote on the case on Aug. 28, with three votes needed to reverse the preliminary tariff. A 2-2 vote would favor the petitioner and the tariffs would become permanent. The rationale behind the decision will be made public Sept. 17.

The commission will continue to accept comments from members of Congress through Aug. 20.