In January, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced tariffs on Canadian newsprint high enough to cripple the print publishing industry. By April, the Tampa Bay Times had laid off a portion of its staff, blaming the stress the tariffs had put on its bottom line.
Luckily, the Senate and House of Representatives aren’t taking the implementation of the tariffs or their disastrous effects lightly.
Last week, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Charlie Crist (D-FL) introduced the “Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018,” or “Print” Act, in an attempt to protect publishers and printers from the tariffs.
The House measure was supported by a round of cosponsors, including: Representatives Bill Flores (R-Texas), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Randy Weber (R-TX), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jason Smith (R-MO).
The PRINT Act would demand the Department of Commerce complete a study focusing on the economic health of the printing and publishing industries, and until the study is complete, keep preliminary and final duties in place.
The tariffs have a particularly devastating impact on local news, where budgets are tight and the smallest fluctuation can land a paper in trouble. The Tampa Bay Times is but one example. Some outlets have been forced to reduce circulation to fewer days a week, among other solutions.
The study is meant to directly explore the types of damage the tariffs cause to local news coverage, including reduced employment or harm to local businesses that advertise in their respective papers. According to the News Media Alliance, the tariffs are as high as 32% in some cases and threaten the jobs of 600,000 U.S. workers.
Rep. Kristi Noem stated: “When the use of trade remedies threatens the jobs of hundreds of thousands of American workers, it bears asking if the cure is worse than the disease.
"Each additional day these import taxes remain in place poses a threat to daily newspapers, printers, and the many small businesses that supply equipment and services to the publishing industry. We need to stem this damage immediately and gain a complete understanding of whether Canadian imports of newsprint are unfairly subsidized or pose a serious threat to U.S. paper producers.”
The current administration has all but declared war on journalism and the media, and while no direct statements have connected the tariffs to underlying motives—destroying the industry itself—the ramifications are real.
But perhaps the loss of jobs and harm to small business owners will prove sufficient to have the House act.
Following the completion of the report, the president would receive the findings from the Commerce Secretary within 90 days. The president then must confirm he has received the report and decide if such an act—stopping the tariffs—is in the interest of the country.
According to the News Media Alliance, the Commerce Department is expected to deliver a final decision on August 2, while the International Trade Commission with hold a public hearing on July 17 and deliver its final determination by mid-September.
An identical bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) in May, and both have received wide support from Stop Tariffs on Printing and Publishing (STOPP).