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Tariffs put small newspapers at risk

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The United States International Trade Commission will vote August 28 on whether to make permanent recent U.S. tariffs on Canadian paper imposed by the Trump administration. The rationale behind the decision will be made public Sept. 17.

The Commerce Department is set to make its final decision on the matter by August 2. If both bodies rule that the tariffs are needed, they will take effect permanently.

The U.S. Department of Commerce imposed the preliminary tariffs in response to a complaint from the North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC) in Longview, Washington, after an August 2017 hearing when company officials said that Canadian paper manufacturers were being subsidized by the Canadian government and were able to offer lower prices, giving them an unfair advantage.

NORPAC was purchased in 2016 by New York hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners. It is one of five mills producing newsprint in the United States. No other newsprint manufacturers are supporting the tariffs.

At a commission hearing July 17, 2018, a group of 19 bipartisan members of Congress argued that the preliminary tariffs were causing damage in the marketplace as higher newsprint costs were forcing newspapers to cut consumption by lowering page counts, reducing days of delivery and, in some cases, moving from print to digital distribution entirely.

The Texas Press Association has aggressively reached out to Texas members of Congress to inform them of the impact of 30% paper price increases on small publishers.

Congressman Mac Thorn-berry of Clarendon was one of the Texas representatives who wrote a letter supporting elimination of the tariffs. Thornberry represents part of The Texas Spur’s coverage area, and The Texas Spur would like to thank him for this support.

Although this sounds like a faraway concern, it hits very close to home. Newspapers have already seen printing price increases of up to 30% and expectation of higher prices to come. At The Texas Spur, we’re sure that you’ve noticed that we recently raised our newsstand price to $1.00 from 75 cents. (We might add that we were one of the last weekly newspapers in West Texas to go to the $1 newsstand rate.)

However, we are still looking at other measures to absorb the higher prices of paper. Many newspapers have reduced the width of their editions slightly to save paper costs. If you read such publications as the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal or the Abilene Reporter-News, you’ll see that their page size is a bit narrower than The Texas Spur’s. We are considering this option, rather than passing the entire 30% tariff hike on to our customers.

In the meantime, if you would contact your Congressman and let them know that you support community newspapers — and that a 30% increase in their operating costs are not beneficial to small towns such as ours — we’d greatly appreciate it.

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