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Editorial: Reducing tariffs not enough

Editorial: Reducing tariffs not enough

Unjust, devastating penalty on publishing companies should be eliminated, not just reduced

Say you get pulled over for speeding.

The officer comes over to your car and reminds you that the fine for speeding is, say, $150. Then, as he’s writing the ticket, a miracle happens and he realizes he pulled over the wrong car.

So he says you won’t have to pay the full fine. Just $75. Are you going to be happy paying even a percentage of a penalty when there was no reason for you to be penalized in the first place?

Sure, being on the hook for half the the fine is better than the entire thing. But it’s still a penalty you didn’t deserve.

So the print industry — which includes newspapers, magazines, book publishers and other users of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada — shouldn’t be happy with or settle for paying reduced tariffs on the Canadian paper they use.

Since there’s no reason for the government to impose these tariffs in the first place, there’s no reason American companies should pay the cost for any tariffs at all.

The tariffs of up to 32 percent on this type of paper from Canada were imposed in January after one newsprint supplier, Norpac, petitioned the Department of Commerce, arguing Canadian companies were dumping their product on the American market and affecting sales of its American-made paper.

The Commerce Department imposed the tariffs, even though Norpac was the only one of the five major newsprint suppliers in the country to complain and even though the national trade association for the U.S. forest and paper industry, the American Forest and Paper Association, and the paper companies’ major U.S. customers opposed Norpac’s petition. There’s even bipartisan support in Congress for efforts to eliminate the tariffs.

The tariffs are already having devastating effects on publishers, including large and small newspapers, by driving up their costs at a time when many are operating on paper-thin margins as it is.

Continuing the tariffs could mean more American job losses, more hits to local economies, less tax revenue for state and local governments, and less news coverage from local newspapers.

So when the Commerce Department announced last week that it was reducing the tariffs to around 17 percent (more or less, depending on the supplier), American newsprint users breathed a sign of relief. 

But just because they caught a break doesn’t mean they should give up fighting.

The U.S. International Trade Commission will hold a hearing on the issue on Sept. 17, after which it could further reduce or perhaps eliminate the tariffs.

The affected industries, business and trade groups, and federal and state lawmakers need to keep pushing federal officials to eliminate the tariffs and remove this undue financial penalty from this important American industry.

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