Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn opposes tariffs on Canadian newsprint that have driven up printing costs and forced cutbacks at newspapers around the nation.
“Newspapers are beleaguered already, and I don’t think we need to make that any harder than it already is,” Cornyn said during an appearance at the National Rifle Association convention Friday in Dallas.
Cornyn said he had spoken in opposition of the tariff with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
“I’m hopeful we’ll see some positive results from that,” Cornyn said.
Newspaper publishers around the country have raised issues that increased pricing costs will hurt small-market newspapers the hardest.
Canadian newsprint makes up about three quarters of the U.S. market.
The Daily Sentinel and Lufkin News have seen a paper price increase of more than 50 percent in the past few months. Paper once selling for around $400 per ton now sells for more than $600 per ton. Page counts in print editions have been reduced due to rising costs. The Daily Sentinel also reduced its number of print days because of rising paper costs.
The Daily News, which, like The Daily Sentinel, is owned by Southern Newspapers Inc., has see similar price increases and been forced to respond by reducing the number of pages printed each day and by cancelling some special publications.
Large papers are also suffering. The Tampa Bay Times recently laid of 50 people because of the tariff, citing a $3 million increase in newsprint costs.
“Just about every American newspaper and all our trade associations are joining the fight to challenge these tariffs, but even if we succeed, it will take months to reverse this terrible decision. Meanwhile, prices will go up. Jobs will be lost. Important stories will go uncovered,” Tampa Bay Times CEO Paul Tash wrote in April.
The tariff was imposed after the Longview, Wash.-based paper mill Norpac filed a complaint against Canadian newsprint producers with the U.S. Department of Commerce. It has not been made permanent, and the International Trade Commission will have the final say.
Last August, Norpac asked the Commerce Department to place the tariff on Canadian imports. Norpac was acquired in 2016 by One Rock Capital Partners, a New York-based hedge fund.
This March, the Commerce Department said that it found some Canadian paper mills selling newsprint for up to 22 percent under fair value. In January, the department agreed to impose temporary tariffs of 4.42 percent to 9.93 percent, depending on the paper mill and the amount of subsidy it received. In March, the Commerce Department added tariffs of up to 22.16 percent.
Since the complaint was filed, the average price of newsprint has risen dramatically.
Since 2012, 10 American paper mills have closed, costing 2,150 jobs. In the same time, paper production capacity has fallen by nearly 70 percent.
Norco announced last week that it would hire 50 new employees and restart a paper machine that was idled in October.
“Norpac has a world-class facility that can compete with anyone in the world on a level playing field,” CEO Craig Anneberg said in a press release.
Editor’s note: The Daily Sentinel of Nacogdoches, like The Galveston County Daily News, is part of Southern Newspapers Inc.