Trade laws and, ultimately, imposing tariffs are designed to protect American interests and jobs. That’s a concept everyone can agree on.
But what happens when those laws and tariffs have the opposite effect? That’s an issue that’s playing out in D.C. with the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission.
A lone newsprint mill in Washington state, owned by a New York hedge fund, brought a complaint to the International Trade Commission alleging unfair trade practices against Canadian producers of newsprint.
Most likely the paper on which you are reading this was produced in Canada.
This year the Department of Commerce has imposed two preliminary tariffs that have increased the price of newsprint for some newspapers by more than 30 percent. This summer, both agencies will explore whether this temporary tariff should become permanent.
If this happens, trade laws that are intended to protect American jobs and interests will have the opposite effect. For newspapers, staff and newsprint are the largest expenses. Faced with those kinds of increases, newspaper publishers throughout Illinois and the rest of the country will have to make hard decisions that will ultimately impact the coverage of local issues and the staff that report on those issues.
There isn’t enough newsprint produced in the U.S. to meet the demand of the industry, and given the fact that newsprint consumption has dropped by more than 75 percent since 2000, no U.S. producer is going to invest in starting a newsprint mill. Mills cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and take years to come into full production.
If these tariffs are made permanent, the New York hedge fund wins as it now has increased the value of its asset, and the federal government wins as tariffs collected go to the Department of Commerce.
Sadly, the country will lose as local newspaper employees will be impacted, and those people, events and issues that newspapers report on will lose as well.
If you agree, contact your federal elected officials to let them know that this is wrong, and that one company must not be allowed to use trade laws to its advantage while adversely impacting local communities throughout Illinois and the rest of the country.
Sam R. Fisher is president and CEO of the Illinois Press Association.