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Graham: Why newsprint tariffs are bad for all of us

By now, all of you have probably heard about the trade war President Donald Trump has begun in an effort to restore the country’s competitive advantage with its foreign trading partners.

It’s hand in glove with his “America First” and “Make America Great Again” philosophy, essentially equating to a national “Buy Local” campaign which I wholeheartedly support.

The key component of this or any trade war is tariffs, which are designed to make it more advantageous to buy from American companies than their foreign competition by making the cost of those goods exorbitant by comparison.

While there has been a lot of talk about the tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum from China, for example, and China’s predictable response, there is another trade war being waged involving tariffs you may not have heard of, even though it will impact you as a reader of this newspaper.

I’m referring to the tariffs which the U.S. Department of Commerce have imposed on newsprint suppliers from Canada who have been selling to American newspaper printers with greater frequency in the last few years as more and more American mills closed and the remaining ones, by themselves, were not able to meet demand.

I’m telling you this not just because the increased pricing coming with this new tariff will have a negative impact on every newspaper in the country, including The Covington News, but because it is going to have a negative impact on you as well.

As I indicated before, there aren’t many newsprint mills left in the United States, and the one pushing for this tariff, NORPAC or the North Pacific Paper Co., is not going to be able to meet the demand of all U.S. printers alone.

It will enjoy a bump in business, no doubt, but the fact of the matter is our printer and others like it aren’t going to stop buying newsprint from Canada because there isn’t any place else to get the supply it needs. Our printer will simply pay more, a lot more, and will pass the cost on to us.

Which is how you will be impacted.

The net result is we are going to have fewer pages or fewer people to tell you what is going on in your community as we try to manage the significant increase in cost we will experience now and in the coming months.

The point of trade wars is to protect jobs in this country, but this particular move is putting jobs in jeopardy, with more than 1 million people currently employed in the newspaper business nationwide. Between the two newspapers I own, there are 22 of your friends and neighbors working in the newspaper business with the number of independent contractors we utilize to fill and get the paper out more than doubling that number.

Some of my colleagues have argued the president has implemented this tariff in order to get back at the print media, and the media in general, for its lack of support. Given President Trump’s relationship with the media in all its forms, this is a plausible theory. He certainly wouldn’t be the first politician to try and hurt those covering him in the pocketbook because he doesn’t appreciate the type of coverage he’s been getting.

But I’d like to think this is more an unintended consequence of what otherwise is a good position to take for the country. The newspaper industry has made him aware of the consequence in an effort to get the tariffs removed or reduced. We are going to meet with U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and any other elected federal official we can talk to in order to make them aware as well.

If so inclined, please feel free to drop Jody, Rep. Hank Johnson, Sen. Johnny Isakson or Sen. David Purdue a line as well.

Patrick Graham is the owner of The Covington News and The Walton Tribune. His email address is pgraham @covnews.com.