In late December, we published an editorial regarding an overly narrow and dangerous proposal working through the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In the fall of last year, the Commerce department announced the initiation of “anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty” investigations on Canadian newsprint imports. The sole company seeking protection, North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), is owned by a New York-based hedge fund that operates only one paper mill in Longview, Wash.
NORPAC claims that Canadian paper mills are dumping their product into U.S. markets at unfair prices and flooding the market, thus damaging the revenue cash flow of the mill in Longview, Wash. In reality, NORPAC’s sales volume is down not because of Canadian competition, but because newspapers are buying less paper today than in years past as we adjust to new business models and other avenues to serve our communities.
Furthermore, many paper mills in the United States have ceased to produce newsprint, choosing instead to produce cardboard for boxes used by retail giants such as Amazon.
NORPAC is pushing for steep import duties, or tariffs, in excess of 50 percent. This petition does not reflect the views of the paper industry in the United States.
In fact, the petition is opposed by other U.S. producers of newsprint and the American Forest and Paper Association. A member of Congress from Washington state, where the petitioning mill is located, even signed a joint Congressional letter of opposition to the duties, which was delivered to the Department of Commerce on Dec. 21. These are the people who stand to benefit most, yet even they oppose these actions.
Even so, on Monday this week the Department of Commerce released a preliminary determination to assess temporary countervailing duties on these imported paper products, with collections to begin next week. Commerce continues to discuss the potential for additional anti-dumping duties.
Should Canadian imports of uncoated ground-wood paper be subject to increased duties, prices in the newsprint market will be shocked and the supply chain could be disrupted.
While this one hits close to home for you as a reader of the Sentinel, it also underscores how a lobbying group representing a very small interest group can broadly and negatively affect a wide range of people or businesses.
Government powers should always strive to do good. But for government regulations or legislative activities to be used as a tool to serve the financial interests of a very select special interest group and create a severe competitive advantage is irresponsible and dangerous.
I ask you to be engaged in this discussion, and others like it, by contacting your local representative and voicing your opposition to these actions by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Brandon Cox is the editor and publisher of the Sentinel. He can be reached by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonJCox.