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Jones calls on Department of Commerce to end newsprint tariffs

U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging him to review recently imposed newsprint tariffs and consider how they will hurt local and community newspapers in the United States.

“Local newspapers are an essential component of the communities they serve, both as the primary distributor of regional news and advertisements for small business,” Jones said. “For an industry that is already struggling, a 22-percent import increase groundwood paper from Canada has the potential to close down small-town papers across the country. I urge Secretary Ross to evaluate these tariffs soon before they force our small-town Alabama media outlets to cut jobs, local media coverage, or both.”

The tariffs were imposed in response to a complaint to the U.S. Department of Commerce made by a hedge fund-owned paper manufacturer, North Pacific Paper Company, in Washington State, that claimed that Canadian government subsidies allowed their producers to sell newsprint at unfairly low prices.

Canadian newsprint producers began paying six percent more to export their products to the U.S. in January after the Commerce Department investigation concluded that would help offset the foreign paper mills’ advantage over American companies. In March, the tariff was increased by another 22 percent.

“I am writing in response to the Commerce Department’s investigation into imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada,” Jones wrote. “I urge you to take into account the challenges faced by domestic newsprint customers, including those in my home state of Alabama, as you continue your investigation. Combatting unfair trade practices and ensuring a level playing field for American businesses are goals that I share with President Trump and the Administration. I am concerned though in the case of tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper that the harm for American consumers will far outweigh the good.”

“Demand for newsprint in the United States has declined steeply in recent years and newsprint production has fallen as a result,” Jones continued. “Domestic newsprint production cannot meet the demands of American publishers. Small publishers, like weekly papers that serve rural areas, are particularly vulnerable to changes in newsprint price or supply. These papers can’t afford to pay higher prices for newsprint and many will be forced to close their doors and lay off employees if the current temporary tariffs and countervailing duties continue to be imposed.”

The timber and pulpwood industry is a major employer in the state of Alabama.

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Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election on December 12.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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