With stories about tariffs dominating the news, it’s easy to wonder how they may affect you. That is an easy question to answer for those who work in the newspaper industry.

Though it is not publicized the same way that tariffs on aluminum and steel have been, tariffs on Canadian newsprint are causing major troubles for all newspapers in America, hitting community papers such as the Rockdale Citizen and the Newton Citizen particularly hard.

Why is Canadian newsprint in such high demand? Canadian paper producers have supplied the U.S. for many years. They have some natural advantages over U.S. papermakers because of hydroelectric power and shipping costs. More than a dozen U.S. mills have stopped making newsprint in the last decade because demand for paper has declined.

Today, even if Canadian paper disappeared because of high tariffs being proposed to the federal government, the U.S. paper mills could not supply newspapers with the paper they need, according to the National Newspaper Association.

One small paper mill in Washington state is trying to use the federal trade and tariff laws to make imported newsprint more expensive. This mill has complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission about international competition.

What began in January with the U.S. Commerce Department imposing a 6.2 percent tariff on imports of newsprint from Canada has increased to the point where newspaper printers have seen as much as a 32 percent increase on the cost of newsprint.

In addition to the higher costs, newsprint has become more scarce, with some newspapers struggling to get their regular shipments. All of this adds up to many newspapers contemplating steps to offset the high costs. According to surveys by the New Media Alliance, 70 percent of newspapers say they expect to make plans to cut consumption while 38 percent say they are looking at the painful possibility of reducing staff.

The ramifications of this tariff has prompted Congress to introduce bipartisan legislation to suspend it until a study can be made regarding the well-being of the newsprint and local newspaper publishing industry. We appreciate the support of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who is one of the co-sponsors of the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade, or PRINT, Act of 2018.

Said Isakson: “Local newspapers are a vital source of news and community information, especially in rural and small-town America. 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.”

Passing the PRINT Act would:

• Require a study by Commerce on the economic well-being, 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 both the findings of the study and any recommendations the Secretary considers appropriate;

• Pause any affirmative determination by the DOC or ITC (U.S. International Trade Commission) until the president certifies that he has received the report and has concluded that such a determination is in the economic interest of the United States;

• Halt the collection of cash deposits for uncoated groundwood imports currently under investigation at the Commerce Department until the President has made such certifications.

A hearing has been scheduled for July 17 on the tariff and a final decision is expected from the Commerce Department on Aug. 2.

We hope the PRINT Act is passed for the good of all American newspapers. And we ask those of you who support local newspapers to let your voice be heard by signing a petition in favor of the PRINT Act at www.stopnewsprinttariffs.org.

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