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A step in the right direction

Last week the U.S. International Trade Commission voted unanimously to remove tariffs on newsprint, putting an end to a situation that was hurting newspapers across the country.

The commission found that the pricing practices of Canadian companies did not materially harm the U.S. newsprint industry. This decision overturned a Commerce Department ruling that allowed tariffs of up to 17 percent on imported newsprint.

As previously reported in The Herald, “Because of the struggles of big-city newspapers, newsprint consumption in America has decreased 75 percent over the past two decades. As demand dropped, many American newsprint mills closed or converted to making other paper products.

Newsprint mills in neighboring Canada filled supply gaps as domestic production capacity dwindled. The result was market equilibrium and stable newsprint prices for much of the past decade – until last summer, when a small, hedge fund-owned newsprint mill in faraway Washington State caused a market jolt that no one saw coming.

North Pacific Paper Co., or NORPAC, complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission that Canadian producers were violating trade laws by receiving government loan assistance and harvesting trees on government land – advantages that allowed them to sell paper in the United States cheaper than American mills could. No other paper manufacturers have complained.”

The tariffs combined with a newsprint shortage led to a 20 percent increase in the cost of producing our newspapers. While we acknowledge a direct interest in the situation we were not alone. The impact was felt across the country with many papers announcing layoffs or reducing the number of days they publish in response to the situation.

The commission’s ruling isn’t the solution for all the challenges newspapers are facing but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.