WASHINGTON >> The U.S. Commerce Department is going ahead with a tax on Canadian newsprint, a threat to the already-struggling American newspaper industry.
The revised tariffs unveiled today are mostly lower than those originally imposed earlier this year. But they would still hit the paper used by newspapers and other publications with an anti-dumping border tax as high as 16.88 percent.
The tariffs are a response to a complaint 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. Still, Commerce decided to spare two Canadian producers from the antidumping charges.
In addition to antidumping duties, Commerce is imposing newsprint levies ranging from 0.82 percent to 9.81 percent to counter Canadian subsidies.
The Commerce decision is not final. The independent U.S. International Trade Commission could change or kill the tariffs in a ruling scheduled for next month.
Newsprint is the usually the second-highest cost for newspapers. Already contending with falling readership and plummeting advertising revenue, newspapers are struggling as the tariffs drive up the cost of newsprint.
The Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton, North Carolina, for instance, last week announced that it was dropping its eight-page color comics sections from its Sunday edition to cut costs.
Congress is overwhelmingly opposed to the tariffs on the paper used by newspapers and other publications.
House Speaker Paul Ryan contacted Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross directly to voice his concerns. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared in a newspaper column that the tax “would do irreversible harm” to the newspaper industry.