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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