Canadian Newsprint Tariffs Take Toll on U.S. Newspaper Industry Publishers Face Price Increase of 30 Percent, Real Possibility of More Layoffs and Closures

By Masunaga, Samantha | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), May 13, 2018 | Go to article overview

Canadian Newsprint Tariffs Take Toll on U.S. Newspaper Industry Publishers Face Price Increase of 30 Percent, Real Possibility of More Layoffs and Closures


Masunaga, Samantha, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


Little noticed amid the trade war discussion, tariffs levied by the Trump administration on the Canadian paper used to make newsprint are starting to take a toll on U.S. newspapers and printers.

In the past few months, the Commerce Department has put in place two sets of duties on producers and exporters of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada. The first, in January, ranged from 4.42 percent to 9.93 percent of the wholesale price after a preliminary determination that suppliers had received financial assistance from the Canadian government.

Then in March, a separate preliminary finding by the Commerce Department resulted in antidumping duties of 22.16 percent for some Canadian paper producers and exporters.

Together, the two sets of duties have raised the price of newsprint by about 30 percent. Final results for both investigations are expected in August.

Some U.S. newspapers and third-party printers say they've already seen the effect of the tariffs in industries that are already facing declining revenues. The Tampa Bay Times said it will eliminate about 50 jobs by June to try to manage the estimated $3.5 million additional cost the newspaper will pay per year as a result of the tariffs.

"It's really going to have a devastating effect on the newspaper industry, and it will ripple through the rest of the printing industry," said Frank Romano, professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology and an expert in printing. "You're almost taxing some newspapers out of business."

The petitions that led to the tariffs were filed in August by North Pacific Paper Co., a Longview, Washington, producer of uncoated groundwood paper - the material on which most newspapers are printed.

Two decades ago, there were about 15 newsprint mills in the U.S., said Paul Boyle, senior vice president of public policy at the News Media Alliance, a trade group representing almost 2,000 news organizations. But as the newspaper industry fell on difficult times and demand for newsprint steadily decreased, the mills began to disappear.

Today, there are only a handful left in the nation, Boyle said.

The U.S. demand for newsprint is 2.4 million tons, he said. Canadian paper mills provide about 60 percent of that. At the Tampa Bay Times, about 80 percent of its newsprint supply was Canadian, said Paul Tash, chairman and chief executive of the Tampa Bay Times/Times Publishing Co.

"America does not produce enough newsprint to meet the needs of American customers," he said. "There's not a lot of spare capacity in the market."

Tronc Inc., parent company of the Los Angeles Times, declined to comment on how the tariffs would affect the paper. But during an earnings call Wednesday, Tronc Chief Financial Officer Terry Jimenez said newsprint was at "historically extraordinarily high prices," mostly because of the tariffs. …

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