ITC reverses newsprint tariffs

UPDATED: 12:37 p.m. Aug. 29

WASHINGTON – In a tremendous victory for newspapers across the country, the International Trade Commission voted this morning to reverse tariffs imposed on newsprint imported from Canada.

Skip Bliss

The vote was unanimous.

“This is clearly a victory for the newspaper and printing industry in general,” said WNA President Skip Bliss, publisher of The (Janesville) Gazette. “To me, this is a victory for America. The newspaper industry faces a lot of challenges and this was one of the most critical. The industry owes a thank you to its readers and advertisers who helped us in this fight. We appreciate the support of Congress and look forward to the continued support of our readers who realize that a free press is so critical to democracy.”

The commission’s 5-0 vote ruled that imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada do not cause material harm to the U.S. paper industry, the ITC announced in a news release. Chairman David S. Johanson and Commissioners Irving A. Williamson, Meredith M. Broadbent, Rhonda K. Schmidtlein, and Jason E. Kearns voted in the negative. A full report on their determination will be available by Oct. 8.

» Read the ITC’s statement

Preliminary tariffs were first imposed in January after a trade case was brought by the Washington state-based paper mill NORPAC. The tariffs drove up the cost of newsprint by nearly 30 percent, forcing many newspapers to reduce their print distribution and cut staff.

Beth Bennett

On Aug. 2, the Department of Commerce revised the tariffs to slightly lower levels but, ultimately, upheld them. Today’s decision reverses that determination.

“The united front from our industry to fight the tariff has paid off,” WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett said. “The decision today to repeal the tariff on Canadian newsprint is a huge victory for the future viability of the newspaper industry. I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who worked so very hard to defeat the tariff at both the state and federal level. The member newspapers of the WNA played a critical role in the eventual outcome that we celebrate today, they are to be congratulated.”

WNA Foundation President Andrew Johnson was one of two publishers to testify at the ITC’s July 17 hearing in Washington, D.C. Nineteen members of Congress also voiced their opposition during the hearing.

Andrew Johnson

“The WNA is so thankful that the commissioners saw the truth behind the reasons for the tariff and did the right thing,” said Johnson, publisher of the (Mayville) Dodge County Pionier, the Campbellsport News and the Kewaskum Statesman. “This is a great day for newspapers.”

Several WNA members have been vocal opponents of the import tax. Bliss denounced the tariffs in an Aug. 9 New York Times article. Multimedia Channels CEO Patrick Wood discussed the tariffs’ detrimental effect during a CNBC segment that ran earlier this month after Wood appealed to readers of his newspaper.

Cash deposits will be refunded to newsprint manufacturers, though that is expected to take several months.

Industry statements

“We hope today’s reversal of these newsprint tariffs will restore stability to the market and that publishers will see a full and quick recovery,” News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern said. “Our democracy depends on it.”

» Read the News Media Alliance’s statement

“We are immensely gratified today by the International Trade Commission’s vote not to impose permanent tariffs upon the North American newsprint supply. The paper markets serving community newspapers can soon begin to move back to market pricing without the heavy hand of government imposing taxes upon the primary suppliers of newsprint,” said National Newspaper Association President Susan Rowell, publisher of the Lancaster (SC) News.

» Read the National Newspaper Association’s statement