News Releases

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Isakson Continues Fight for U.S. Printers, Publishers

Testifies before International Trade Commission in opposition to uncoated groundwood paper tariffs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today continued his fight on behalf of printers and publishers in the United States by arguing against paper and newsprint tariffs that harm U.S. newspaper and print industries, including local Georgia newspapers.

In testimony today at a formal hearing before the International Trade Commission focused on the effects of tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper, which is commonly used as newsprint, Isakson expressed deep concerns that levying tariffs could backfire. Ultimately, the tariffs would actually harm U.S. workers and manufacturers instead of protecting them, he said. 

For local communities, “of all the news media there are, there’s none that delivers a more quality insight into the issue of the day [than local newspapers],” Isakson began. “The threat of losing the newsprint [industry] in this country… is a tremendous threat to the First Amendment, my ability to express myself and my ability as a businessman to sell a product.”

Ahead of today’s testimony, Isakson also has sponsored legislation to prevent these tariffs from taking effect. Isakson argued today that trade laws are meant to correct market disruptions, not to interfere with the market.

“I’m afraid these market increases would affect the markets in a negative way, the information I’m able to read in a negative way, and the dissemination of [information for] the public good in a negative way. None of which are good for the American people or American business,” Isakson said.

In May, Isakson joined a bipartisan group of his Senate colleagues in introducing the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018, or PRINT Act for short, which would suspend the import taxes on uncoated groundwood paper while the U.S. Department of Commerce examines the health of—and the effect of tariffs on—the printing and publishing industry. 

In January, Isakson led a bipartisan coalition of senators in a letter urging the administration to exercise caution in its pursuit of a pending trade investigation involving imported newsprint and other commercial printing papers used by small-town newspapers in Georgia and around the country. The entire text of the letter can be read here.

Isakson’s complete testimony as prepared is included below.

“Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

“I appreciate the hard work that you do as commissioners, and the role you play in administering our trade remedy laws. I am here today, along with many of my colleagues, to express my deep concerns about the consequences of tariffs on uncoated groundwood paper, commonly used in newsprint.

“I am concerned that imposing tariffs would harm several employers in Georgia, including Resolute Forest Products, which employs 169 Georgians at their Augusta mill. They have an annual economic impact of $100 million. Cox Newspapers, which is headquartered in Atlanta, and owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and several other newspapers across the country; papers, like my hometown paper – the Marietta Daily Journal, which has been around since 1866 – are growing more and more concerned about the negative impacts small, community papers will experience.

“The Georgia Press Association representing 130 small town papers in rural communities has expressed the same growing concern. Quad Graphics employs nearly 500 Georgians at their commercial printing facilities in Valdosta and The Rock, Ga.

“I have been vocal about my concerns that levying tariffs could backfire, and instead of protecting U.S. manufacturers, they could actually harm them.

“Our trade remedy laws are meant to correct market interferences and disruptions, not to create them. Sadly, I believe that levying tariffs, particularly on newsprint, could accelerate the decline of newspapers and local news.

“We are all aware of the challenges that face printed newspapers, and since 2000, the North American demand for newsprint has dropped 75 percent. Levying tariffs could deliver a deathblow to some newspapers, especially local and regional ones, who are facing rising prices and supply shortages.

“Again, if we are to let the markets dictate the trends, we should let consumer preferences determine how many papers are printed, how many retail inserts are used for advertising, and how many paperback books are sold. Producers will react, as they have, to these market forces and they will right-size their production.

“While the market is changing – and business will admit that is in decline – there are still millions of people who subscribe to printed newspapers, use advertisement inserts to find sales and coupons for stores like Target and Walmart, and read those paperback books. One such example is the $60 million investment made in Augusta by Resolute Forest Products, which increases efficiency, reduces operating costs, and improves the quality of the newsprint produced there.

“Producers are adapting to the market and some are retooling their facilities to make products serving new and growing markets. SP Fiber Technologies, headquartered in Dublin, Ga., was one of the first to take on this innovation. At their facilities in Georgia and Oregon, they have converted about 290,000 metric tons of newsprint production into producing boxes. This shift was guided by the market’s growing demand to serve the packaging needs of e-commerce. Management innovations like this – not trade sanctions – will do far more to protect our nation’s mill workers and their customers.  

“Printed newspapers remain a vital part of our country’s free press, which is a key component of our democratic governance and civic life. At the local, regional, and national level, these papers help us understand and provide necessary context to the events unfolding here at home and across the globe.

“Local papers keep us informed about the daily ins and outs of our communities’ lives. They let us know which high school seniors just made the honor roll or whether or not the local football team won the state championship. They provide us pictures of our kids at graduation, or our hometown veterans marching in the Fourth of July parade. They let us know when our local grocery store has a weekly special on milk and eggs.

“In conclusion, I reiterate my concerns that tariffs in this case could unnecessarily disrupt this market. It is my view that sound business decisions, based on market conditions, should guide the production and supply of newsprint.”