Newspaper Publishers Get Welcome News as Tariff on Canadian Paper Overturned

Large newsprint rolls storage at newspaper plant. (Source: Shutterstock)

Newspaper publishers throughout the state, already suffering financially as readers move from their print product to online news, have caught a break in another recent drain on their resources.

The International Trade Commission overturned on Wednesday a tariff imposed by the Trump Administration on newsprint imported from Canada, which supplies most of the paper used by American newspapers. The tariff increased production costs significantly for publishers, as newsprint is usually either their top expense item or a close second behind personnel.

The tariff was different from most of the others Trump has implemented or proposed as part of his escalating battle with China and the European Union, among other international trade partners. The newsprint tariff came at the request of one specific company, a paper mill in Washington state, whose owners claimed that the Canadian government was subsidizing newsprint producers north of the border, thereby hurting American producers.

The company filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Commerce, whose investigation showed that the complaint had merit. The department then imposed the tariff in January, citing anti-dumping laws.

In a press statement, the ITC said that it had determined “that a U.S. industry is not materially injured or threatened with material injury by reason of imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada” and that the Commerce Department’s finding of an improper Canadian subsidy was incorrect.

The increased newsprint costs hit medium and small newspapers harder than bigger publishers, with at least one newspaper in Ohio shutting down completely. Others have reduced page size, the number of pages in each edition, or have stopped printing editions on certain days. In Alabama, newspapers in Decatur and Florence reduced their print schedule from seven days a week to five.

The ruling was welcome news for Felicia Mason, executive director of the Alabama Press Association.

“We are grateful to the Alabama congressional delegation who helped us get these tariffs reduced, as well as to our members who wrote editorials and made phones calls. The tariffs were a hardship on our newspapers and we’re very glad to have this reversed,” she said.

Sen. Doug Jones strongly opposed the tariffs. The Democrat from Alabama co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, to suspend the tariff pending further investigation by the Commerce Department.

“This is a huge win for our local newspapers, which are truly the lifeblood of their communities,” Jones said in a press release. “The vast majority of newsprint used by America’s newspapers is manufactured in Canada, not the United States. The Administration’s tariffs were going to cost jobs, not save them.”