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International Trade Tariff hits home for The Journal
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opinion columns
by Richard Harris

   You have probably heard President Donald Trump and various politicians talking about negotiating trade deals, and in some cases imposing tariffs on products coming into the United States from other countries. A tariff, simply put, is a tax levied on an imported product. The main purpose of a tariff tends to be to protect a particular domestic industry from foreign competition.

   You've likely seen many people on cable TV talking about tariff threats and a pending "trade war" with China. However, one tariff recently imposed on our neighbor to the north, Canada, could have a serious impact on a local business – this one, The Journal.
   Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a tariff on newsprint (the type of paper you're holding in your hands now unless you're reading this online) coming from Canada. Prices jumped immediately and have yet to settle. It is estimated that the tariff will increase the price of newsprint in the U.S. from 10% to 30%.
   The crazy part of it is that only one U.S. Company – NORPAC – asked for the tariff. The vast majority of U.S. newsprint manufacturers actually opposed the NORPAC petition, as they feared it would have effects that would be negative to them. So, a single paper producer, with less than 300 employees, apparently got the U.S. Commerce Department to make a major change in trade with Canada – and toss thousands of other businesses into a storm of changes. They must have one heckuva lobbyist.
   Purchasing paper to print the newspaper on is obviously one of the main expenses for The Journal and the thousands of other small community newspapers across the country that bring you news about your local governments, schools, events, etc., as well as legal notices about pending government actions, foreclosures, etc., not to mention giving local businesses and organizations a way to inform the public about their services and events.
   In addition to the increased cost of production, The Journal has already experienced a second negative factor due to the tariff. Believe it or not, it suddenly got difficult to simply find newsprint. A few weeks ago The Journal was 12 pages even though I wanted to print 14 pages that week. Why did we drop two pages? We were afraid we might not have enough newsprint on hand to handle the press run. Yes, we were literally afraid we'd run out of paper before the press finished rolling, because the most recent order for paper was WAY late being filled.
   One of the casualties that week was the crossword puzzle. I figured it would be better to drop it than a local news item. No big deal, right? Well, to at least one reader it was. He called and cancelled his subscription, citing two reasons. No. 1: He didn't want to pay a higher price (we recently increased our subscription price to 67¢ per week and he was used to paying 55¢ per week). No. 2: The missing crossword puzzle. BOTH items brought about in part by the tariff.
   It's not likely that the cost of this newspaper will ever drop back down to 50¢ (in stores) and 55¢ (for local subscribers), because the tariff isn't the only thing affecting the industry. The first thing, simplest, is inflation. I mean, ask yourself what other product you can purchase for 50¢ these days? How about anything you can buy for less than $1? The list won't be long.
   Also, the cost of newsprint was already on the rise before the tariff.
   The cost of delivering the newspaper (in our case through the U.S. Postal Service) also continues to increase. We've already had one increase in the cost of mailing this year (and multiple increases over the last several years).
   We have "eaten" many of our increases in costs over the years, but it could not go on forever.
   Don't get me wrong. We're not getting ready to "shut the doors". We have, so far, found ways to remain profitable. However, it's not getting any easier. We've been more fortunate than many, many other newspapers that have either gone out of business, drastically scaled back, or "sold out" to larger companies that don't place as much time and effort into their small, rural publications.
   Our hopes – and plans – are to continue to offer The Journal to the people of Marion, Schley, Chattahoochee, Webster, and Stewart Counties. If you want to help us stay strong, we welcome and treasure your support as a regular reader.
   For those who don't mind making calls to elected officials, it wouldn't hurt to also voice your opinion on the newsprint tariff to President Donald Trump (202-456-1111), U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (202-482-2000), Congressman Sanford Bishop (478-803-2631), Senator Johnny Isakson (770-661-0999), and Senator David Purdue (404-816-3435).
   The Commerce Department will decide whether to finalize, or lift the tariffs on Canadian newsprint by late summer.