ITC to decide if newsprint from Canada hurts US mills

The International Trade Commission is going to vote at 11 a.m. Wednesday to decide whether the subsidized newsprint being imported from Canada is harming US mills — or whether the general economic malaise that is walloping newspapers everywhere is responsible for mill closings in the US.

North Pacific Paper Company, a mill in Longview, Wash., that employs about 400, filed the original complaint last year, which initially resulted in a tariff of 22 percent being slapped on Canadian paper producers.

That, in turn, caused the price to spike by close to 30 percent for the hardpressed newspaper industry here.

In an Aug. 2 ruling, the Commerce Department cut the tariffs but did not repeal them entirely.

“We weren’t seeking an advantage, but a level playing field against subsidized, unfairly traded uncoated groundwood paper from Canada,” said a spokesman for NORPAC. He said 10 mills have shut down in the US since 2012.

“Those closures have everything to do with the shift from print to digital, not pricing from Canadian imports,” counters Paul Boyle, a spokesman for the News Media Alliance, an umbrella group fighting the tariffs. He also says papers in the Northeast are not going to use paper from Washington state. “The newsprint market is an east and west business, not north and south. In other words, NORPAC does not sell into the east, and eastern Canadian mills do not sell into the west,” he said.

Since the tariffs went into effect, NORPAC has hired 60 more people and plans to hire another 40, Boyle said.

If the tariffs stay, publishers will take further measures to cut paper use. That move will hurt demand from US mills that the tariffs are designed to protect.

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