Paper mill’s appeal of ruling striking down newsprint tariffs given little chance of success


North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), the hedge fund-owned paper mill in Washington state that lobbied for tariffs on Canadian newsprint, took the first steps towards appealing the U.S. International Trade Commission’s decision to lift the duties that had been imposed for several months this year.

NORPAC gave formal notice of the appeal of the ITC decision on October 17, days after the commission released the public version of its final determination in the newsprint tariff case.

Following an in-depth investigation, the ITC rejected NORPAC’s claim that it was facing injury from alleged unfair trade practices by Canada. The ITC’s ruling that U.S. newsprint producers were not materially harmed by subject imports from Canada effectively put an end to the protective tariffs.

“Our counsel believes that the ITC’s decision will be hard to challenge on appeal,” Paul Boyle, senior vice president, public policy for the News Media Alliance, wrote in an email to STOPP member organizations. Inland is a partner in STOPP, Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers, a coalition of newspaper associations, printers, publishers, retailers and paper suppliers that formed to oppose the newsprint tariffs.

The ITC released a 223-page final determination, “Uncoated Groundwood Paper From Canada,” packed with statistics and economic jargon such as “substitution elasticity” and “variance analysis.”

But its conclusions are clear, Boyle wrote. Among them: “Canadian imports did not depress domestic prices. In fact, prices were either stable or rising—particularly during the latter part of the POI (period of investigation). The domestic industry’s poor performance was not due to competition from subject imports, but rather was the result of the secular decline in demand, the shift in demand to lighter weight newsprint that most domestic producers could not or would not produce, and the shift in supply by White Birch from Bear Island to Canadian mills.”

The ITC itself concluded the lengthy report by writing: “We determine that an industry in the United States is neither materially injured nor threatened with material injury by reason of subject imports of UGW (uncoated groundwood) paper from Canada that were found by (the U.S. Department of) Commerce to be sold in the United States at less than fair value and subsidized by the government of Canada.”

Filing the notice of appeal does not obligate NORPAC to actually follow through with an appeal, Boyle noted.

“If litigation is pursued it could take a couple of years,” he wrote. “In the meantime, Customs and Border Protection has been instructed by the Department of Commerce to refund to manufacturers the cash deposits from the preliminary tariffs that have been collected. This process could take 3-6 months.”