Forbes Media chairman Steve Forbes on Friday accused President Donald Trump of "undermining" free press by imposing a 30 percent tax on Canadian newsprint.
Forbes an op-ed wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Friday, warning that "since March a tariff of up to 30 percent on Canadian uncoated paper has raised the price of newsprint, making it difficult for cash-strapped newspapers to circulate their work. As if limiting economic freedom weren’t enough, the administration is also undermining Americans’ freedom of expression with this needless tax on journalism."
Forbes notes that "the tariff originated with an investigation begun last August by the U.S. International Trade Commission, assessing the claim by an American company that Canada is unfairly subsidizing its paper industry. The North Pacific Paper Co.— known as Norpac and based in Washington state — says Canada’s subsidies create an unequal playing field that threatens the company and its employees."
But according to Forbes, "the tariff has inflicted far greater harm on publishers, printers, and the many companies that supply materials, parts and services to them," and up to 600,000 workers could be hurt if the company succeeds in getting the administration to increase the taiff to 50 percent.
"Norpac’s petition is an example of protectionist cronyism,” Forbes writes. “Among U.S. paper producers, the company is conspicuously alone in its petition for protective tariffs. The trade group that represents paper mills, the American Forest and Paper Association, opposes the tariffs, as do scores of newspapers, book publishers and printers around the country."
He then notes that print media already has had its business model "shattered" by the rise of online advertising, and that many local newspapers have been forced out of publication, while "Those that have shifted to an online-only format have tended to offer fewer well-reported stories of interest to local readers.
"In such an environment, a sharp price hike in newsprint, which is generally the biggest budget item after labor, could force dozens of additional publications to close or be reduced to shadows of their former selves," Forbes continues. "The killing of local newspapers by the imposition of tariffs would gut the nation’s free press."
He concludes: "All businesses must adapt to survive in a free market, and newspapers are no different. While the government has no responsibility to safeguard newspapers from market forces, it shouldn’t hasten their demise by shielding a single company from market forces. Norpac’s tariff campaign is one of overt cronyism — asking Washington politicians for a favor at other parties’ expense. The newsprint tariffs are a heavy new tax on struggling businesses and an unjustified burden on a cherished institution, the American newspaper."
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