Fears that 'preliminary' duties in a US anti-dumping case could ruin many small-town newspapers, have been expressed by NMA president and chief executive David Chavern.
The fears follow Department of Commerce investigations of Canadian newsprint imports brought by One Rock Capital Partners' North Pacific Paper Company
Commerce is expected to issue "preliminary" duties this month before the case moves to the International Trade Commission (ITC) for a full investigation.
Chavern says Norpac's petitions request import fees as high as 50 per cent, which if implemented would result in a disrupted newsprint market and steep increases in the price of newsprint. "This would cause small newspapers - already operating under thin margins - to haemorrhage revenue at the worst possible time," he says.
NMA claims Norpac is wrong in claiming that the steady decline in the newsprint market is a result of a trade matter, instead of acknowledging that the downward market for newsprint has been caused by many factors including disruption in the retail sector and a decade long the shift toward digital media. "To illustrate this point, in the last ten years, there has been a 30 per cent decline in print newspaper subscriptions," he says.
"These petitions are an attempt by Norpac's owners to use the trade laws - and the protectionist environment in our nation's capital - to increase the short-term value of one mill.
"If these duties go through, newspapers may have to reduce the number of days they deliver printed newspapers, be forced to raise subscriptions prices (which will likely cause readers to switch from print to digital), or they may be forced to shut down operations altogether.
"All three scenarios would accelerate the decline of the newsprint market and most likely result in the loss of thousands of jobs in both the paper manufacturing and publishing industries."
He urges publishers to engage with Commerce, the ITC and policymakers and explain the negative impacts of the proposed newsprint duties on news publishers and their readers. Earlier this month, more than 1100 newspapers signed a letter calling on Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross to heavily scrutinise the "trade protectionist" petitions. Other newspapers have weighed in on the trade case through editorials.
Chavern says the Alliance has also received tremendous support on its legislative and administrative outreach from individual newspapers around the country, state press associations, the National Newspaper Association and PAGE Cooperative. "As the case moves forward in the coming months, I encourage you to add your voice to theirs, calling out this gross misappropriation of trade laws and highlighting what it would mean to your community if access to your local newspaper were diminished or eliminated."
• A January 9 'preliminary' decision by the Department of Commerce to impose countervailing duties on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper has stunned the News media Alliance.
It says the decision and its associated duties "will likely lead to job losses" in US publishing, commercial printing and paper industries. "We are stunned that a single US mill... has been able to manipulate the trade laws to their gain, while potentially wreaking financial havoc on newspapers and other commercial publishers across the country."
NMA says the Norpac petitions do not reflect the views of the domestic paper industry and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the market.
"We oppose the Norpac petitions and these tariffs, and we will take every possible measure to fight this misguided case as it moves through the investigation process at the Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission," it says in a statement.