Archive for Pennsylvania

US Lawmakers, Printers and Publishers Testify Against Crippling Import Tariffs on Canadian Newsprint

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

By Mark Michelson, Editor-in-Chief, Printing Impressions
(July 20, 2018)

With all of the talking heads on television news stations pontificating about the prospects for an international trade war initially fueled by tariffs that have been implemented by the Trump administration — including imported steel and aluminum — the import tariffs that are currently being imposed on Canadian uncoated groundwood papers (newsprint) aren’t capturing any attention within the electronic media.

Even so, July 17 was a pivotal day for the printing and publishing industry as more than a dozen Congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, publishers, printers, newspaper advocacy groups and newsprint paper producers testified in Washington before the International Trade Commission (ITC) to express their strong opposition to the preliminary paper tariffs.

“The tariffs will hurt the U.S. paper industry because they will cause permanent harm to newspapers, printers and book publishers, shrinking the U.S. paper industry’s customer base,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) during her testimony before the ITC. “In fact, the tariffs will likely lead to less production of newsprint by U.S. manufacturers as customers cut their consumption once and for all. This is simply not the way Congress intended the trade laws to work.”

The ITC is reportedly slated to vote on Aug. 28 whether or not to make the import tariffs permanent. And the U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to render its decision on the matter by Aug. 2. Current tariffs on imported Canadian newsprint, which largely impact U.S. newspaper, book, directory and circular printers and publishers, will become permanent if both organizations vote in favor to keep them in place.

In January, the Department of Commerce assessed preliminary countervailing duties on uncoated groundwood ranging from 4.4% to 9.9%, depending on the Canadian paper manufacturer. Then, it later added preliminary antidumping duties, on top of the countervailing tariffs, of up to 22.16%, resulting in total tariffs of up to 32% now being imposed.

The preliminary countervailing and antidumping duties by the Department of Commerce emanate from a complaint filed by North Pacific Paper Corp. (NORPAC), a single-location paper manufacturer located in Longview, Wash., which is owned by a New York-based hedge fund. NORPAC is reportedly one of five newsprint paper mills still remaining in the U.S., but it was the only one to file an antidumping complaint.

Bills Introduced in Both Congressional Houses
In response to the impact of the current paper tariffs, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate, led by Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine), introduced a bill in May that would delay dumping tariffs and countervailing duties currently being applied. The PRINT (Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade) Act would suspend the import taxes on Canadian uncoated groundwood paper and would require the Department of Commerce to complete a study on the consequences the tariffs will have on U.S. newspapers and the more than 600,000-employee-strong printing and publishing industry in general.

The bill would also suspend any action by the Commerce Department and the ITC on newsprint import duties until President Trump would receive the report and certify that the taxes are in the economic interests of the United States.

The bipartisan PRINT Act is co-sponsored by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.). A very similar bill, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), has more than 20 co-sponsors.

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Newsprint tariff a lose-lose, for newspapers and jobs | Editorial

Easton, Pennsylvania


(June 10, 2018)
By: Express-Times opinion staff

First, do no harm.

The ethical underpinning of the medical profession can be applied to trade protectionists, too.

When governments set up border skirmishes in the form of tariffs, they lay the groundwork for deeper trade wars, subjecting their own businesses and employees to retaliation. And unintended consequences.

That’s not to say punitive trade measures don’t have their place. They do, in extreme situations.

But in a growing economy and a period of low unemployment? President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and Europe are befuddling many of his supporters, as well our allies abroad.

Another tariff — a 32 percent surcharge on Canadian newsprintshipped to the U.S. — is having a chilling effect on newspapers and other publishers in the U.S.

Earlier this year Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved a petitionfor tariffs filed by North Pacific Paper Co., a firm in Washington state that claimed Canadian companies were “dumping” newsprint subsidized by their government.

The tariff-induced rise in newsprint prices is rippling through newspapers, book publishers and other printers. In an industry coping with severe economic pressures, many newspapers — particularly small and medium-sized ones — will be looking at cutting staff, reducing the news hole, going to fewer publication days, giving up print entirely, even shutting down.

Newsprint is the second largest cost for newspapers, after salaries and benefits. Its purchase and transport is largely a regional concern. Most newspapers in the northeast U.S. rely on Canadian product because the remaining mills in the U.S. — there are only five left — are located in the Southeast and Northwest.

No other domestic newsprint producer supports the tariff. This is strictly a move by one company, yet the Trump administration’s solution threatens to sap an entire industry — one that has right-to-know implications for the American public.

“It is telling,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, “that nearly all of the U.S. paper industry opposes these import taxes, including the large trade association representing the entire industry, the American Forest and Paper Association. The paper industry opposes the import taxes because they threaten to decimate the paper industry’s customers and drive printers and publishers out of business forever.”

American newspapers employ 150,000 people, down from 276,000 two decades ago. NORPAC, the Washington company seeking federal trade protection, employs 300.

President Trump, who has the power to reverse the tariff, has shown little inclination to do so. The International International Trade Commission has scheduled a hearing July 17 to decide whether to make tariff permanent. Publishers are hoping to make their case there.

Several U.S. senators, including Pat Toomey, R-Pa., are backing a bill called the PRINT Act, co-authored by Collins, that would suspend the newsprint tariff while conducting a study on its economic impact. After that it would go to the president for review and the final say.

“The tax on (newsprint) could spell the end of numerous publishers across Pennsylvania,” Toomey said.

The newspaper business has no shortage of existential threats — advertising dollars moving from print to online, young people’s lack of attachment to a printed newspaper, even news itself. Local news generators are especially vulnerable.

It’s one thing to cope with an evolution in technology, the economy, the culture. It’s quite another to survive against protectionists in Washington who seem to think sacrificing tens of thousands jobs for a few hundred is a smart way to play the fair-trade game.

That’s the bet the White House is making, hoping Canada will blink first and crumble under threat of a trade war. Judging by the blow-back from Ottawa, it’s not working.
Where’s the harm?

It’s about to show up in towns across the U.S.

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Tariffs on imported newsprint are a potentially crushing blow to local newspapers and their communities

Lancaster, Pennsylvania


By: THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD

(June 10, 2018)

THE ISSUE
The Trump administration recently imposed two tariffs of up to 32 percent on uncoated groundwood paper imported from Canada, or newsprint — the paper on which LNP and other American newspapers are printed. A coalition of U.S. printers, publishers, newspaper associations, paper suppliers and distributors calling itself STOPP — Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers — has formed to oppose the tariffs. The tariffs are the result of lobbying by a single paper supplier, the North Pacific Paper Company, known as NORPAC, in Washington state. It is owned by One Rock Capital, a private equity firm in New York. The tariffs are opposed by other U.S. paper manufacturers and the industry’s trade association, the American Forest & Paper Association. The U.S. International Trade Commission will hold a hearing on the tariffs July 17 before they are made permanent; a final determination is to be made in early August. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada in 2016 were valued at an estimated $1.27 billion.

Tariffs on Canadian paper pose an existential threat to community newspapers, including LNP.

And of course this worries those of us who are employed by LNP. But it also should worry you.

Without local newspapers, elected officials would be free to spend your tax money behind closed doors, use their positions for self-enrichment and run roughshod over your interests and those of your fellow citizens without worry of exposure.

The voice of citizens is amplified by local newspapers; your concerns are our concerns. We’re not being lofty when we say we are serious about our Fourth Estate role as watchdogs. Whether the issue is a school board’s machinations in the dark, or a state lawmaker’s alleged history of sexual harassment and assault, newspaper journalists are committed to bringing to light the actions of those charged with doing the public’s business.

Local newspapers tell the stories, too, that knit a community together — stories of the obstacles people are facing, the joys they are celebrating. They tell stories about human connection, about the challenges and triumphs of individuals, schools, businesses, organizations. They cover local sports, the local arts scene, the local economy, local industry. The national newspaper you read on your smartphone won’t deliver any of that coverage.
Newspapers including LNP have made critical changes in an effort to remain a part of the lives of the communities they serve for a long time. But these tariffs have the potential to be crushing.

As the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor, John Diaz, wrote in May, “Newsprint is the second-largest expense for American newspapers, surpassed only by payroll. The price jumps have been immediate and severe — as has the loss of jobs. The Tampa Bay Times of St. Petersburg (Florida) announced (in April) that it would be laying off about 50 workers as a direct result of a $3.4 million annual increase in newsprint costs.”

That newspaper’s CEO, Paul Tash, warned readers in a letter: “Make no mistake: These tariffs will cause layoffs across American newspapers.”

NORPAC has about 300 employees. These tariffs put at risk an estimated 600,000 other American jobs in newspaper and book publishing and commercial printing.

So we laud Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for co-sponsoring legislation aimed at suspending these potentially devastating tariffs.

A news release on Toomey’s website explains: “The bipartisan Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018 (PRINT Act) calls on the U.S. Department of Commerce to suspend the collection of duties and to conduct a study into the economic health of the U.S. newspaper and publishing industries. Following the completion of this study, the president would be required to review the study and certify that such a tax on imported UGW paper is in the best interest of the country.”

Said Toomey: “American companies must be allowed to adequately and fairly source materials, especially when those items are not produced domestically. The newspaper and publishing industries are facing unprecedented challenges and the tax on UGW paper could spell the end of numerous publishers across Pennsylvania. As the Commerce Department and ITC continue their investigation, we want to ensure that this tax is actually warranted and necessary before imposing such a detrimental financial burden on downstream industries.”

Sixteen other senators — Democratic, Republican and independent — have joined Toomey as co-sponsors of the PRINT Act; Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the bill’s prime sponsor.
We urge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey to join the effort. And we hope to see Congressman Lloyd Smucker push similar legislation in the U.S. House.

As Mark Cohen, president of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, wrote in an op-ed published in LNP on April 6, the United States “does not produce enough newsprint for the U.S. market to survive.” Affordable Canadian paper has been the most viable option to keep
“printed news alive and flourishing,” he noted.

These tariffs may prove to be not just a game-changer but a game-ender.

And they won’t just hurt newspapers, causing some of them to print on fewer days or to make their publications completely digital.

They are likely to affect the prices of books and magazines, and put still more publishers out of business. For what reason?
So that one paper company, and its private equity firm owners, might profit.

“Were it left to me to decide if we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” Thomas Jefferson famously wrote.

The Trump administration now appears to be OK with the prospect of putting some newspapers out of business. We should wonder why. And for the sake of the long-term health of our communities, we shouldn’t allow it.

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U.S. Sen. Bob Casey should support the PRINT Act, which would suspend unwarranted tariffs on Canadian paper products. (Times-Tribune File)

Scranton, Pennsylvania


By the Editorial Board
(June 1, 2018)

Sen. Pat Toomey has become a sponsor of a bill to suspend unwarranted tariffs on Canadian paper that adversely affect print industries, including newspapers, for the sake of bolstering profits for a New York private equity firm.

The Trump administration blithely has imposed tariffs of up to 32 percent on Canadian paper manufacturers, based solely on claims by the investment firm that the companies are dumping the products at prices below their production costs, thus adversely affecting a paper mill that it owns in Washington.

The actual market for the paper, however, does not reflect the alleged dumping. Rather, it reflects declines in print advertising and circulation that have been going on for two decades.
The Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018, or PRINT Act, would suspend the tariffs pending investigations of the dumping claim and of the financial conditions of paper-using industries.

Although the paper tariffs demonstrably are unwarranted, Sen. Bob Casey has expressed reservations about the PRINT Act for an ancillary reason. He believes that it might set a precedent that adversely could affect other tariffs that he favors, such those on steel and aluminum. Actually, establishing such a precedent is one more reason to support the PRINT Act.

In one crucial respect, the paper and other tariffs are similar. They seek to protect a relatively small number of workers in politically wired industries at the expense of many more workers in industries that use the steel, aluminum or paper. For example, there are about eight times as many workers employed in businesses that use steel and aluminum as in producing steel and aluminum. Likewise, about 750,000 American workers are in print-based businesses, compared with a few hundred in the single company to be protected by tariffs. And, by driving up the final cost of products, the tariffs adversely will affect millions of American consumers.

In Pennsylvania alone, the unjustifiable tariffs harm 76 daily newspapers and more than 150 weeklies, many of which already operate on thin margins, and hundreds more commercial printing companies. Casey should support the PRINT Act because the paper tariffs are wrong, and let the metal tariffs stand or fall on their own merit.
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Publishers Coping With Higher Costs From Tariffs On Canadian Newsprint

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

By: Joyce Gannon
(June 1, 2018)

The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper, a weekly distributed in six counties that comprise the Diocese of Pittsburgh, hasn’t raised subscription rates in 16 years because it has had a healthy stream of advertising to generate revenues.

But recent federal government tariffs slapped on Canadian newsprint have pushed production costs so high that Carmella Weismantle, the paper’s operations manager, said there may be no choice but to ask advertisers — and perhaps the parishes that subscribe — to pay more.

Two newsprint price hikes since January cost the nonprofit Pittsburgh Catholic Publishing Associates $37,000 and Ms. Weismantle is bracing for another increase in July.

“We’re running on a shoestring as it is. We don’t have $37,000,” she said.

Newspapers across the country are coping with the same problem since the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed tariffs on Canadian imports of the uncoated groundwood paper used for newsprint.

Besides asking newspaper advertisers and readers to pay more, publishers nationwide are laying off workers and shrinking the size of their papers.

The duties vary from company to company but range as high as 32 percent, according to the News Media Alliance, an advocacy group in Arlington, Va.

The tariffs resulted from a complaint by a U.S. paper manufacturer, North Pacific Paper Co. of Longview, Wash., which said government subsidies give Canadian producers an unfair price advantage over domestic mills. Canada has about 25 groundwood producers while only five are operating in the U.S.

In January, the Commerce Department imposed a tariff of 6.2 percent on Canadian newsprint and raised it by 22 percent in March after an investigation found a producer in British Columbia was underselling groundwood.

The International Trade Commission will hold a hearing on the tariffs in July and the Commerce Department later this summer will decide whether to make them permanent.

Since the tariffs were imposed, U.S. newspapers have experienced newsprint price increases ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent, the News Media Alliance said.

The industry group argues the problem stems from the ongoing shift in the news industry from print to digital and a dramatic drop in print advertising and newspaper page counts.

Demand for newsprint has fallen 75 percent since 2000 and more than 70 U.S. newsprint mills have closed since 2007, the News Media Alliance said.

Critics of the tariffs note they were triggered by a single producer, Norpac, which is owned by One Rock Capital Partners, a New York-based hedge fund.

“It’s a totally wacky thing brought to us by a private equity firm out of New York,” said Paul Boyle, senior vice president, public policy at News Media Alliance.

Norpac’s owner, he said, “is taking advantage of a protectionist environment in Washington, D.C.” where the Trump administration also just imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

“We don’t have the ability to absorb those [tariff] costs,” Mr. Boyle said. “We can’t pass them on to advertisers; they will go to Google or Facebook.”

A survey of members of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association found 22 percent of its publications have already imposed staff cuts and 84 percent reduced page counts as a result of the preliminary tariffs imposed earlier this year.

The Pennsylvania group represents 76 dailies and more than 140 non-daily papers in the state.

According to the survey results released this week, the additional annual cost of the preliminary tariffs to newspapers ranges from $5,000 to $2 million depending on the size of the publication, with an average cost increase of 23.4 percent.

If the tariffs become permanent, 72 percent of publications said they would reduce page count, 31 percent may reduce the number of days they publish and 13 percent said they would consider going all-digital.

In a letter to U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., seeking his support to defeat the tariffs, the PNA said the added costs could force newspapers statewide to cut a total 600 workers resulting in nearly $30 million in lost salaries to the state’s economy.

“Any good publisher has to prepare for the expenses,” said Mark Cohen, PNA’s president.

For Pittsburgh Catholic Publishing, paper and printing costs are the second highest annual expense after payroll. The newspaper, with a weekly circulation of about 87,000, is produced at Trib Total Media’s printing plant in Tarentum.

Advertising rates could jump 10 percent, said Ms. Weismantle.

Thomas Northrop, publisher of the daily Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa., said the paper has produced 200 fewer pages this year compared with the same period in 2017 because of increased costs from the tariffs. It also reduced the width of the newspaper, he said.

Five years ago, the Observer-Reporter outsourced its printing to Ogden Newspapers, a Wheeling, W.Va., chain that owns more than 40 daily papers as well as weeklies and magazines.

Ogden “has a bit more purchasing power than we did” and has been able to stockpile newsprint and delay the price increases somewhat, Mr. Northrop said.

For Block Communications Inc, publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, the tariffs will add roughly $1 million to expenses this year, said Bill Southern, director of finance for the company’s newspaper division.

“We, as well as the rest of the industry, remain focused on this issue and hopefully there will be some successful attempts to zing it back,” he said.

Newspaper trade groups have made repeal of the tariffs a priority.

Mr. Cohen of the PNA is among the publishing representatives who will travel to Washington June 13-14 to meet with members of Congress. Legislation has already been introduced to suspend the tariffs.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is among 17 co-sponsors of bipartisan legislation to suspend collection of the duties. The bill also would force the Department of Commerce to study the economic health of the publishing industry and would require the president to justify any tariffs on imported newsprint by certifying that it is in the country’s best interest.

“American companies must be allowed to adequately and fairly source materials, especially when those items are not produced domestically,” Mr. Toomey said in a written statement.

Mr. Casey opposes the bill because it would establish a new “national interest” standard to the application of trade laws. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, with whom he met two weeks ago, has the authority to negotiate a settlement.

“This is a tool that is currently available, one that has been used in the past for these very circumstances, and seems to be a practical resolution to the issue without undermining our trade enforcement laws,” Casey spokeswoman Jacklin Rhoads said.

Newspapers aren’t the only print product taking a hit.

Books, advertising circulars, and directories will also be impacted, according to Printing Industries of America, a trade group.

“In an industry in which it is difficult to absorb forced cost increases, the effect will likely be less production, fewer pages printed, a faster shift to digital content of news and books, and more diversion of advertising from print to electronic platforms,” Michael Makin, PIA president and chief executive said in a statement.

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Trib editorial: Newsprint tariffs imperil role of the press

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

(March 30, 2018)

Even the most adamant U.S. trade-policy protectionist would be hard pressed to defend looming tariffs of 32 percent on Canadian newsprint.

This isn’t about hostile foreign trade policy crushing beleaguered U.S. industries.

We’re talking about our reliable trading partner to the north and just one American paper mill — in Washington state — asking for government intervention in the marketplace.

Shortly, the federal government is expected to decide whether to make permanent increased tariffs on newsprint.
Newspapers across the country already have seen a steep increase in newsprint prices.

The two biggest costs for newspapers are wages and newsprint.
At a time when the news provided by local newspapers fills an impactful community void, publishers are having to cope by cutting pages, printing days and in some cases shutting down their presses.
It doesn’t bode well for the First Amendment.

Of course the claim is that Canadian paper mills have an unfair advantage over U.S. mills, forcing closings and limited demand.
But the U.S. newspaper industry blames that limited demand on the market forces at work: papers that have closed, cut print days or moved to all-digital news delivery.

Fewer and smaller newsrooms do not bode well for the traditional government watchdog role of the press.

We’ve grown accustomed to those watchdog reports appearing daily on our front porches.

Big government’s actions may put that in peril.

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