OTTAWA: The tariffs are a response to a complaint to the U.S. Department of Commerce from a hedge fund-owned paper producer in Washington state, which argues that its Canadian competitors are taking advantage of government subsidies to sell their product at unfairly low prices. The tariffs, imposed in January and increased in March, are not permanent yet. But newspaper publishers are bracing for another blow to an industry that has shrunk with the loss of advertising revenue to the internet.
Critics of the paper tariffs say the businesses that will ultimately be harmed are not Canadian paper producers, but U.S. newspapers that will have to cut staff and reduce publication days to afford higher prices of newsprint — the sheets newspapers are printed on. The newspaper industry employs just over 150,000 Americans, which is about 276,000, or 65 percent, fewer than two decades ago.
“To get an unbudgeted increase of this magnitude will be for many publishers very, very serious to catastrophic,” said Tom Slaughter, the executive director of the Inland Press Association, which represents about 1,500 daily and non-daily newspapers in every state.
A large metro newspaper can expect annual increases of about $3 million in printing costs, according to Paul Boyle, senior vice president for the News Media Alliance. While larger papers might be able to survive the increase, Boyle said smaller publications might not.
Steve Stewart, publisher of The State Journal in Frankfort, Kentucky, told readers in a March 30 column that the newspaper they were reading cost 10 percent more to produce than a few weeks earlier and could cost as much as 40 percent more in a few months. He said this will result in fewer pages, higher subscription costs and less non-local content.