WASHINGTON — Sen. Johnny Isakson has signed on to a bipartisan bill asking for a suspension to the import taxes on newsprint.
The tariffs have been a major threat to the printing and publishing industry in the U.S. in recent months.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Monday introduced the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018, or PRINT Act. Co-sponsors include Isakson, R-Ga., along with Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Doug Jones, R-Ala., Angus King, I-Maine, Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
“Local newspapers are a vital source of news and community information, especially in rural and small-town America,” Isakson said.
“Unfair or punitive action taken against producers of groundwood paper would threaten to put many Georgia newspapers out of business and could cost up to 1,000 jobs in Georgia.
“I have consistently fought for a level playing field for domestic producers, but in this case, unfair manipulation of trade remedy laws could endanger jobs across Georgia and the country. We are urging the administration to exercise caution in its pursuit of new tariffs on imported newsprint until Congress can review and understand the full possible effects on this industry before these taxes are collected.”
The Commerce Department initiated antidumping and countervailing duty investigations in late 2017 into the Canadian uncoated groundwood paper industry on behalf of a single domestic paper mill, North Pacific Paper Co. The import taxes as high as 32 percent on the paper used by newspapers, book publishers and numerous other commercial printers is passed on to businesses already under severe economic stress.
Nearly all of the U.S. paper industry opposes the import taxes, including the large trade association representing the entire industry, as well as the American Forest and Paper Association.
“The U.S. printing and publishing industry is facing and unprecedented threat from crippling new import tariffs imposed on Canadian uncoated groundwood paper — better known as ‘newsprint’ — which is used by newspapers, book publishers and commercial printers,” Collins said.
“As a senator representing one of our nation’s leading papermaking states, I have consistently fought for actions to ensure a level playing field for the domestic papermaking industry. In this case, however, one domestic mill owned by a venture capital firm appears to be taking advantage of trade remedies to add to its own bottom line, putting thousands of American jobs at risk.
“I encourage my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill to fully evaluate the economic impact of these tariffs before they harm our local newspapers and printing industries.”
The PRINT Act would require a study by the Department of Commerce on the economic wellbeing, health and vitality of the newsprint industry and the local newspaper publishing industry in the U.S.; require a report from the commerce secretary to the president and Congress within 90 days that includes the findings of the study and any recommendations the secretary considers appropriate; suspend the effect of proceedings of the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission with respect to uncoated groundwood paper until the president certifies he has received the report and has concluded such a determination is in the national interest; and halt the collection of deposits for uncoated groundwood until the president has made such certifications.
David Clemons, the publisher of The Covington News, said he appreciates the support of Isakson and his Senate colleagues.
“Sen. Isakson has been a champion for Georgia’s small businesses, and I’m glad he is doing exactly what we need him to do: hear our concerns and represent us well in Washington,” Clemons said.
“These tariffs are putting jobs at risk here in Georgia and across the country. I hope Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and others in the Senate will join this bipartisan group to support the PRINT Act.”
Patrick Dorsey, the president of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, said, “We appreciate the leadership of Sen. Collins and Sen. King and the other co-sponsors of the bill for stepping up to protect American jobs and stop these damaging tariffs.”
Dorsey said Collins, King and other senators who signed on to the PRINT Act “fully understand this action was caused by one outlier mill owned by a hedge fund and is not supported by the broader domestic newspaper producing industry. These unfair job-killing import taxes are already taking a toll across the country as newspapers have had to eliminate jobs and take other significant cost-saving measures to maintain viable businesses.
“This is putting many community newspapers in jeopardy and further reducing their ability to keep our citizens informed on what is going on in their cities and towns. Ultimately, this is damaging to our representative democracy. The PRINT Act is a positive step in reversing these damaging impacts.”
The News is a member of the SNPA, as is its sister publication, The Walton Tribune.