Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers speaks in opposition to Canadian newsprint tariff

(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)

McMorris Rodgers talks in front of U.S. International Trade Commission…

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers spoke before the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday on the impact that U.S. tariffs on Canadian newsprint on small businesses and local newspapers. She was one of nineteen bipartisan members of Congress that told the commission that the tariff is hurting local newspapers.

Opponents of the tariffs have said by increasing the cost of newsprint would deal a major blow to local newspapers who already struggle to stay afloat.

The tariff was imposed by the Commerce Department in March on Canadian newsprint and uncoated groundwood paper. The department’s action came after the North Pacific Paper Company, a mill in Longview, Wash., complained that Canadian manfacturers were harming their business.

Legislators said that new media’s shift to digital platforms are responsible for declining paper mill business not the cost of Canadian paper. The tariffs, they said, would create some jobs at North Pacific Paper Company but cause lost jobs across the country.

“It’s technology, not unfair trade practices, that are challenging newspapers and newsprint production.   Let’s not compound those challenges through misguided tariffs,” McMorris Rodgers said. “The demand for newsprint is in decline – down 75 percent since 2000.  This is a struggle for newspapers and U.S. newsprint producers alike.  The reality is that readers are switching from print to digital, and some are switching to other media for their news, such as 24-hour cable news.”

Speakers against the tariffs included McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. The group comprised 13 Republicans, five Democrats and independent Maine Sen. Angus King.

North Pacific Paper Company said the tariffs have allowed them to re-hire American workers, but legislators said the cure is worse than the disease, they also cited the importance of independent journalism and the First Amendement’s freedom of the press. The publishing industry employs about 600,000 people in the United States. North Pacific Paper Company employs 410 people.

“The managers at the Ponderay mill have told me that the added costs associated with these tariffs will only accelerate the falling demand for newsprint in the United States,” McMorris Rodgers said. “The Ponderay managers are not alone in opposing the tariffs.  The Pacific Northwest Economic Region issued a statement opposing the tariffs, as did the American Forest and Paper Association.   Some 60 of my House colleagues – from every region and from both parties, are on record opposing these tariffs.”


CONGRESSWOMAN CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS STATEMENTS TO THE TRADE COMMISSION
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today in opposition to the proposed countervailing and anti-dumping duties that together have added up to 32 percent of new costs on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper, or newsprint.

I know you heard from many of my colleagues earlier who have expressed their concerns about these proposed duties, but I wanted to provide a perspective from Washington, my home state, which is at the center of this issue.

Washington State is fortunate enough to have three of the five remaining newsprint mills operating in the United States, including the Ponderay mill in Usk, Washington, in my district.

All three mills provide much-needed, good-paying manufacturing jobs to people in rural communities that lack the same kinds of economic opportunities in cities like Seattle or Spokane.

These Washington State mills produce about half of the newsprint that is manufactured in the United States, which are responsible for up to 500 direct jobs in our state.  So unlike other regions, we have robust in-state capacity for newsprint.

In fact, according to the ITC’s staff report last fall, only 4.6 percent of Canadian imports come into the Pacific coast.   The overwhelming majority of imports — well over 90 percent — serve the Northeast and Midwestern parts of the United States.   Given the regional nature of newsprint, the vast majority of imported newsprint does not compete with the three Washington mills.

As you have heard from my colleagues, these duties are already creating market turmoil for many newspapers and newsprint producers, which have already seen their markets decline sharply over the last two decades.

The managers at the Ponderay mill have told me that the added costs associated with these tariffs will only accelerate the falling demand for newsprint in the United States.  The Ponderay managers are not alone in opposing the tariffs.  The Pacific Northwest Economic Region issued a statement opposing the tariffs, as did the American Forest and Paper Association.   Some 60 of my House colleagues – from every region and from both parties, are on record opposing these tariffs.

The demand for newsprint is in decline – down 75 percent since 2000.  This is a struggle for newspapers and U.S. newsprint producers alike.  The reality is that readers are switching from print to digital, and some are switching to other media for their news, such as 24-hour cable news.

It’s technology, not unfair trade practices, that are challenging newspapers and newsprint production.   Let’s not compound those challenges through misguided tariffs.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my views with you today.