WASHINGTON — The International Trade Commission on Wednesday overturned a Trump administration decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint, saying that U.S. paper producers are not harmed by newsprint imports.
The unanimous decision by the five-member body is a win for small- and medium-sized newspapers, which have struggled to absorb the cost of higher newsprint and engaged in cost-cutting, including layoffs and reduced pages, as a result.
The Commerce Department imposed anti-dumping tariffs as high as 20 percent on newsprint from Canada after a North Pacific Paper Co., a paper mill in Washington state, filed a complaint alleging that subsidies the Canadian government provides to its companies put American paper manufacturers at a disadvantage.
In a statement announcing the decision, the International Trade Commission said it has "determined that a U.S. industry is not materially injured or threatened with material injury by reason of imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada that the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) has determined are subsidized and sold in the United States at less than fair value."
The decision will allow Canadian paper providers to stop paying tariffs on imports of newsprint, which had been in effect since January. Those tariffs have already caused widespread damage among the already-struggling newspaper industry.
"Newspaper publishing is still a tough business but this is a good day and not just for us but also for the readers in our communities who count on us,’’ said Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Times has not increased its prices because of the tariffs, but cut the publication schedule for the tbt* free tabloid from five days to one day a week to save newsprint and laid off about 50 employees, including about a dozen in the newsroom. Those reductions are likely to remain.
The end of the tariffs "has more to do with the steps we might be able to avoid in the future than undoing the steps we’ve taken,’’ Tash said. "It’s just too soon to know what effect it’s going to have on prices. It’s a little like gas prices; they go up faster than they go down.’’
In response to the tariffs, dozens of regional newspapers across the country cut staff, reduced the numbers of days they printed, and in some cases, closed entirely, unable to contend with the increased costs.
David Chavern, the president and chief executive of News Media Alliance, cheered the commission’s decision in a statement on Wednesday.
"Today is a great day for American journalism," he said. "The ITC’s decision will help to preserve the vitality of local newspapers and prevent additional job losses in the printing and publishing sectors. The end of these unwarranted tariffs means local newspapers can focus once again on playing a vital role in our democracy by keeping citizens informed and connected to the daily life of their communities."
Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin contributed to this report.