Freeport, Illinois — Turns out a single paper mill in Washington state has started a process that some believe will rock the newspaper industry in 2018.
The mill, North Pacific Paper Company, or NORPAC, has asked the government for import duties on groundwood paper from Canada. The petition has resulted in a preliminary decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce to levy tariffs on imports of Canadian newsprint and other paper products.
NORPAC claims that the Canadian government has subsidized the paper companies, creating an unfair arrangement that injured NORPAC’s business.
Groundwood paper is a kind of newsprint. It is used to print and publish newspapers, large and small, across America. If the tariffs are imposed, costs will go way up on an already stressed industry. Other users include book publishers and paper merchants.
Except for NORPAC, which is owned by a hedge fund, most of the stakeholders are against the petitions, which, if approved, would add duties of as much as 50 percent.
GateHouse Media, who owns the The Rockford Register Star and The Journal-Standard of Freeport, say the tariffs would increase costs for the Register Star, The Journal-Standard and the other newspapers in the GateHouse group by almost 10 percent. They say that kind of increase would be hard for any business to absorb.
The Rockford Register Star and The Journal-Standard are two of 21 daily and 55 weekly newspapers published by GateHouse just in Illinois.
Led by Reps. Chuck Fleishmann, R-Tenn., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the group sent a letter to the International Trade Commission, urging denial of NORPAC’s petitions.
In the letter, the legislators said, “Duties on imported newsprint would further damage the printed news industry in the United States, which has seen a more than 50 percent decline in advertising revenue over the last 10 years.”
They added, “The irony is that this trade dispute – brought by only one company with 400 employees – could accelerate the decline for an entire industry and may put small-market newspapers out of business.”