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Region’s newspapers oppose Canadian newsprint tariffs

FILE – In this April 11, 2018, photo, production workers stack newspapers onto a cart at the Janesville Gazette Printing & Distribution plant in Janesville, Wis. (Angela Major / AP)
FILE – In this April 11, 2018, photo, production workers stack newspapers onto a cart at the Janesville Gazette Printing & Distribution plant in Janesville, Wis. (Angela Major / AP)

Organizations that represent newspapers around the Northwest oppose the temporary tariffs on newsprint, which can drive up the costs of the paper some of them use by nearly a third.

Although the request for tariffs against Canadian imports of newsprint comes from owners of a Washington paper mill, the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association and Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington oppose the duties.

The North Pacific Paper Co., or NORPAC, a Longview, Washington, paper mill owned by the One Rock Capital Partners hedge fund, had requested the tariffs early this year because it said it was losing business to Canadian mills that receive subsidies from their government.

But Canadian mills have been the main producer of newsprint used in the United States for years, in part because they have bigger supplies of sawdust, said Rowland Thompson of Allied Daily Newspapers, an industry association. He likened the situation to putting a tariff on Canadian maple syrup in an effort to rescue American maple syrup producers.

There are also questions about the extent of any subsidies, said Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. That group, which provides staff services to the Northwest newspaper association, hasn’t been able to determine if the subsidies are even occurring, he said.

None of the four other newsprint plants in the region supports them, Ewert said. Inland Empire Paper Co., which is owned by the same parent company as The Spokesman-Review and supplies its newsprint, opposes the tariffs, he said.

But the Commerce Department does believe the subsidies exist and issued the first round of “countervailing duties” between 4 percent and 9 percent for different mills in January. It levied a second round between 11 percent and 22 percent in March.

“Some papers could be paying up to 32 percent more for newsprint,” Ewert said. “Newspapers are starting to lay people off.”

But NORPAC is adding staff. In May it announced it will add 50 workers and restart a paper machine in response to increased demand, the Longview Daily News reported.

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