'PRINT' Act introduced in House to protect publishers and printers from harmful tariffs

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Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., yesterday introduced legislation to suspend tariffs on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper which includes newsprint used by newspapers, book publishers, printers and direct mail companies.

The legislation, H.R. 6031 – "Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018" or "PRINT Act" – would temporarily halt both the preliminary and any final duties while the Department of Commerce (Commerce) completes its study on the economic health of the printing and publishing industries. The study would, among other things, examine whether the tariffs would harm local news coverage, reduce employment in the publishing and printing industries, or harm local businesses that advertise in local newspapers.

The House bill is identical to S.2835 that was introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) in May. At introduction, the House measure was supported by the following original co-sponsors: Representatives Bill Flores (R-Texas), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Jason Smith (R-Mo).

Many local newspapers and printers have experienced price increases and a disruption in supply since preliminary countervailing and antidumping duties were assessed earlier this year. They have warned policymakers that the import tariffs – as high as 32 percent – would jeopardize the viability of the industry and threatens the over 600,000 U.S. workers in publishing, printing and related industries. The tariffs are being sought by one mill, North Pacific Paper Company, that is owned by a New York-based private equity firm.

"When the use of trade remedies threatens the jobs of hundreds of thousands of American workers, it bears asking if the cure is worse than the disease," said Rep. Kristi Noem. "Each additional day these import taxes remain in place poses a threat to daily newspapers, printers and the many small businesses that supply equipment and services to the publishing industry. We need to stem this damage immediately and gain a complete understanding of whether Canadian imports of newsprint are unfairly subsidized or pose a serious threat to U.S. paper producers."

"An unnecessary trade war with some of our closest partners is already having real, negative consequences for our economy and the newspaper industry in particular.  The Tampa Bay Times recently announced 50 employees would be laid off due to new tariffs – shrinking newsrooms at a time when thoughtful, credible reporting is needed most," said Rep. Charlie Crist. "Newspapers are an integral part of our communities, employing our neighbors and keeping us informed. It's encouraging to see bipartisan and bicameral support for protecting local news."

The PRINT Act would:

  1. Require a study by Commerce on the economic wellbeing, health and vitality of the newsprint industry and the local newspaper publishing industry in the U.S.;
  2. Require a report from the commerce aecretary to the president and Congress within 90 days that includes both the findings of the study and any recommendations the Secretary considers appropriate;
  3. 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; and
  4. 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 final Commerce Department decision is expected on Aug. 2. The ITC is conducting its final investigation in this case, which includes a public hearing on July 17. The Commission will reach a final determination in mid-September.

Because of the devastating impact of the tariffs on publishers, printers and other businesses, the legislation in the House and Senate has received widespread support from Stop Tariffs on Printing & Publishing (STOPP), a broad-based coalition representing the U.S. printing and publishing industries that was formed to fight these crippling tariffs. SNPA is a coalition member of STOPP.

SNPA President Patrick Dorsey, publisher of the Herald-Tribune Media Group in Sarasota, Fla., and regional vice president Coastal Group, GateHouse Media, said: "Thanks for the leadership and common sense shown by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., as they introduced legislation in the House to suspend tariffs on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper. They should be lauded for stepping up to protect American jobs and working to stop these damaging tariffs."

Dorsey added: "They join Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) who introduced the original Senate bill in May. These members of Congress 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 also increases the costs of preprinted insert advertising that are significant to the advertising of many of our large brick-and-mortar retailers across the country. The taxes create further hindrances as they try and compete with the strength of internet retailers and put even more jobs at risk. This is putting many community newspapers in jeopardy and further reducing their ability to keep our citizens informed about what is going on in their cities and towns.  Ultimately, this is damaging to our representative democracy. The PRINT Act, now introduced in both the Senate and the House, is a positive step in reversing these damaging and improper tariffs."

Michael Makin, president & CEO, Printing Industries of America, stated, "The printing industry is constantly innovating and reinventing itself to stay competitive in the modern communications marketplace. Taxing our most essential raw material drags down the industry's job creation, economic growth and future viability. PIA supports free and fair trade, but trade remedy laws are designed to help domestic industries – not to create an exponential number of domestic losers in the process. The PRINT Act is crucial to restoring a much-needed sense of sanity surrounding tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper."

David Chavern, president & CEO, News Media Alliance, stated, "Publishers already face economic headwinds due to the migration of advertising from print to digital. We simply cannot absorb extra costs from import taxes. Newspapers will close or be forced to raise prices for readers and advertisers. We are already seeing some papers cut back on news distribution and cut jobs. These tariffs are killing jobs and high-quality news in local communities. We are grateful that Representatives Noem and Crist, and 10 other House members, showed leadership and stepped up to protect small publishers in local communities across America."

Susan Rowell, publisher, Lancaster (S.C.) News, and president, National Newspaper Association: "Good trade policy increases the job opportunities in America. Applying tariffs like a tax to industries simply to penalize struggling businesses does not enhance jobs. It takes opportunities away. On behalf of community newspapers, we believe the Department of Commerce must fully understand how irretrievable the damage to our publications and our towns would be if trade policy continues to force newsprint costs higher. If you want to silence a free press, take away the newsprint. That is what is happening now, and it is simply wrong. We applaud Representatives Noem and Crist for taking a bold step to protect newspapers."

Alfredo Carbajal, president, American Society of News Editors: "ASNE thanks Representatives Noem and Crist for introducing the PRINT Act. The economic sting of the ongoing proceedings at the Department of Commerce and United States International Trade Commission is being felt by our members, some of whom will be laying off staff as newsprint costs increase. The impact of these layoffs may be permanent, even if the tariffs are reversed. Unfortunately, it is the public who will be impacted the most by these changes. The PRINT Act offers a reasonable solution, which prevents long-term impact on the public and press as the need for government action is assessed."

Molly Willmott, president, Association of Alternative Newsmedia: "The Association of Alternative Newsmedia is proud to endorse the PRINT Act and thanks Representatives Noem and Crist for introducing this bill. Our members continue to serve their local communities via the distribution of print newspapers on a weekly basis. They are already being affected by increases in printing costs that have resulted from the proceedings initiated before the Department of Commerce. Unless action is taken now, there will be short and long-term effects on our members' ability to inform their readers. The PRINT Act will help."

Jim Fetherston, president, Book Manufacturers' Institute: "Plain and simple, the tariffs and duties on uncoated groundwood paper are having a negative financial impact on American book manufacturers. Rather than protecting American jobs, they are having the opposite effect. Book publishers are moving production to China to avoid this extra cost. The BMI solidly supports the introduction of the PRINT Act."

Mark J. Nuzzaco, vice president, Government Affairs, Association for Print Technologies: "The Association for Print Technologies (APTechSM), formerly NPES, joins with its industry colleagues in endorsing the PRINT Act and commends the leadership of Representatives Noem and Crist. Support for free, fair trade along with the use of trade sanctions under U.S. law when necessary and appropriate are bedrock principles for APTech. But in this instance, the already-imposed countervailing and anti-dumping duties are misplaced and are harming a domestic industry rather than shielding it from unfair competition. The PRINT Act will provide a much-needed reprieve from the ongoing damage of these duties while all of the facts of the case are fully assessed."

For more information about "Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018," click here.

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