The newspaper industry was dealt some positive news last week when the International Trade Commission unanimously overturned the Trump administration’s short-sighted tariffs on imported Canadian newsprint. But let’s hold the applause.
Lawmakers need to be on guard to ensure these ill-conceived tariffs are not put into place after a successful appeal.
This editorial board has previously written about how the Trump administration is correct in strongly advocating for free trade practices, especially with China, and correcting trade imbalances. But the weaponizing of tariffs is fraught with risk and myriad unintended consequences. Certainly our soybean farmers know that.
Tariffs ought to be applied with precision – the opposite of this maneuver – and benefit many.
In this case, it all started because of a single company, North Pacific Paper Co., which thought it was the victim of Canadian newsprint producers dumping paper in the U.S. at below production costs.
So the Longview, Washington, mill, filed a petition over imports of "uncoated groundwood paper” from Canada, alleging subsidies from the Canadian government gave paper producers there an unfair advantage.
The Trump administration seized on this and applied sweeping tariffs, in the process jacking up prices for cash-strapped newspapers across America.
Yes, one company’s petition started a trade skirmish.
"We are stunned that a single U.S. mill in Longview, Washington, has been able to manipulate the trade laws to their gain while potentially wreaking financial havoc on newspapers and other commercial publishers across the country," said a statement from the News Media Alliance, a trade group of more than 2,000 U.S. news organizations.
The International Trade Commission agreed, but the impact of the temporary fees applied in January has already been felt. Cost of newsprint climbed as high as 30 percent. Many newspapers cut back on pages. There have been job losses.
North Pacific Paper, which is owned by a New York hedge fund, will almost certainly appeal.
We ask that our lawmakers in Washington continue fighting.
This newspaper and many others are depending on it.