Many of New York’s newspapers and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are lining up against an import duty the Trump administration imposed on Canadian paper.
Schumer said the U.S. Department of Commerce on Jan. 9 imposed preliminary countervailing duties ranging from 6 to 9.9 percent on imports of Canadian groundwood paper. In early March, the agency will assess preliminary antidumping duties that could be significantly higher.
The matter is scheduled to be finalized in July, when the U.S. International Trade Commission will decide whether there is injury or risk of injury to the domestic industry.
“This proposal would impose dramatically increased costs on local newspapers, and could put many of them out of business,” said Diane Kennedy, president of the New York News Publishers Association.
And the potential impact is not limited to newspapers. Contract printer Quad Graphics, which has a large plant in Saratoga Springs, said the higher paper costs would hurt it, too.
“Tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper would hurt, not help, U.S. consumers and manufacturers,” spokeswoman Claire Ho said. “The U.S. does not produce enough uncoated groundwood paper to fully meet demand. This compels us to import it. There is simply not enough to go around.
“Paper manufacturers are not able to absorb the cost of the tariff and have already let it be known that the tariff will be passed on to U.S. consumers.”
John DeAugustine, publisher of The Daily Gazette, was not as alarmed by the new import duty.
“Any time there’s an extra tax or tariff that costs me more money to get the news out, I’m against it,” he said.
But The Gazette’s newsprint supplier is saying it does not expect a significant impact from the tariff at this point, DeAugustine said.
The News Media Alliance noted that the tariff was sought not by the printing industry but by a single paper manufacturer in Washington state.
Schumer predicted that higher paper prices will hurt newspapers and other printers and cause them to order less paper, which would hurt the U.S. paper industry the tariff is nominally intended to protect. He noted that the American Forestry Paper Association, which represents 80 percent of U.S. paper manufacturers, opposes the import duty.
Schumer wrote a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging reconsideration of the tariff, noting that there are 712 newspapers in New York state with a combined readership of more than 15 million. He said there are about 17,000 employees at the daily news publications, some of whose jobs are potentially at risk because of the tariff.
Kennedy, Ho and Schumer each said higher paper costs could push the news industry further into the digital realm, with uneven results.
“Residents of broad swaths of upstate New York lack access to broadband internet,” Kennedy said. “The only source of news about local communities, including reports of local government actions, fundraisers for volunteer fire departments, church events and fairs and festivals, is the local printed newspaper, delivered every day to homes and stores in even the most rural areas.
“The newspaper industry has lost nearly half its revenue to the internet, and to the loss of local businesses due to population declines in rural areas over the past decade,” she said.
Ho said higher costs will drive print customers in greater numbers to digital options, a trend that already is disrupting the industry.
In Saratoga Springs, some jobs could be at risk if fewer publications hire Quad Graphics to print advertising material.
In a news release, Schumer said, “If fully implemented, this damaging decision by the Commerce Department — at the behest of but one company on the West Coast — will cause prices to rise, American paper workers to lose their jobs and some New York papers to even go out of business.
“I am all for fair trade, and I lead that fight on many fronts — especially against China — but when the federal government tries to put in place duties that will lead to a loss of American jobs, a rise in prices and a diminution of top-notch journalism and information to residents across upstate New York it’s time to yell: ‘Stop the presses!’”