American newspapers scored a tremendous victory Wednesday morning when the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) rejected tariffs imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department on imported Canadian newsprint.

Last year, a petition filed by North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), a paper mill located in Longview, Wash., which is owned by a New York hedge fund, spurred the Commerce Department to impose the tariffs. NORPAC and alleged that Canadian newsprint competitors took advantage of government subsidies to sell their product at unfairly low prices. 

Earlier this month, the Commerce Department lowered the tariffs, and Wednesday, following an extensive investigation, the ITC unanimously ruled that the U.S. paper industry was not harmed or threatened by the Canadian imports.

No other American paper mill supported the NORPAC petition.

“The unanimous rejection of these tariffs by the ITC is clearly a case of common sense prevailing,” said Letti Lister, publisher of the Black Hills Pioneer. “We didn’t just sit back and take this. We fought hard to educate the public and our political representatives about how these unwarranted tariffs were going to threaten the very existence of rural newspapers, and threaten thousands of jobs in the paper and printing industries.”

South Dakota’s Congressional delegation understood the danger of the tariffs to the newspaper industry and supported the call to end them. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds both co-sponsored S. 2835, the  Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade (PRINT) Act of 2018, and Rep. Kristi Noem introduced H.R. 6031 – “Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018” or “PRINT Act.”

Since the tariffs were rolled out in January, hometown newspapers, including many in South Dakota, have seen a nearly 30 percent increase in newsprint costs, Noem said.

“Local newspapers document the heartbeat of small town South Dakota, but unnecessary newsprint tariffs have threatened their survival,” Noem said. “Getting these tariffs nullified was an important and hard-fought victory for more than 125 local newspapers in South Dakota, whose reporting strengthens our sense of community and connection.”  

“This is great news and a big win for newspapers across South Dakota and the rest of the country. I was glad to join Sen. Rounds and Rep. Noem in directly requesting the ITC make this decision,” Thune said. 

“We support the ITC’s decision to block tariffs on newsprint imported from Canada, which many of South Dakota’s local newspapers rely on to print their publications,” said Rounds. “These tariffs would have dramatically increased the cost of printing newspapers, having a significant impact on our rural newspapers in particular. I thank the South Dakota Newspaper Association (SDNA) and the many daily and weekly papers in South Dakota for their advocacy on this issue. Our local newspapers play an important role in keeping the citizens of our communities connected with one another.”

Lister said that she would prefer to purchase newsprint from an American company; however, it is not a geographical option as there are no paper mills in the region.

Newsprint is the second largest cost for newspapers, behind staff.

The newsprint tariffs added approximately $6,000 per load of paper which equates to $90,000 a year, at the Black Hills Pioneer alone.

"Today is a great day for American journalism. The ITC’s decision will help to preserve the vitality of local newspapers and prevent additional job losses in the printing and publishing sectors,” said David Chavern, president and CEO of News Media Alliance. “The end of these unwarranted tariffs means local newspapers can focus once again on playing a vital role in our democracy by keeping citizens informed and connected to the daily life of their communities.”

According to Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers (STOPP), a coalition of printers, publishers, retailers, paper suppliers, and distributors, the tariffs threatened 600,000 American jobs. The coalition gathered the signatures of more than 11,000 people opposing the tariffs, and about 150 members of Congress expressed opposition to the tariffs with letters to key Administration officials, testimony delivered before the ITC, or co-sponsorship of legislation in the House and Senate.

“I just want to thank everyone that has spoken out on our behalf. Our staff, subscribers, advertisers, fellow publishers, David Bordewyk at SDNA, and fellow journalists in radio and TV helped us spread the word,” Lister said. “In addition, our Congressional delegation of Sen. Rounds, Sen. Thune, and Rep. Noem actively advocated on our behalf and helped guide us through this process. On a national level, so many people actively battled this through STOPP and other organizations. This was a solid team effort through and through.

“In the end this benefits our readers and every citizen that believes in the value of a robust free press, presented in the format of choice — PRINT,” she added.

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