Casey’s Planmeets Trump

June 13, 2018 GMT

Since the Trump administration imposed tariffs of up to 32 percent on Canadian paper, Sen. Bob Casey’s effort to get Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to change his mind always was something of a long shot. But that was before last weekend’s G-7 meeting in Quebec, where President Donald Trump’s belligerence toward Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only deepened the rift between the two administrations. The notion that Ross will agree to Casey’s call to suspend the tariffs on Canadian paper imports has gone from improbable to extremely unlikely. The tariffs are not in response to market conditions. Rather, they reflect the desire of a New York hedge fund that owns a single struggling paper producer in Washington state, which claimed that Canadian producers have dumped paper at rates below their production costs. Paper markets have not declined due to dumping, but have fallen in concert with the fortunes of the newspaper and magazine publishing industries. As print circulation has declined, so has the demand for newsprint. Fortunately, Casey need not rely on Ross to defy his boss. He can join fellow Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania in supporting a legislative remedy. Toomey is a co-sponsor of the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act, or PRINT Act. It would, by law, suspend the paper tariffs pending an investigation into the dumping charge and into the economic impact on American print industries. Casey is reluctant to support the bill because he fears it would be a precedent that could be used later against tariffs he specifically favors on steel and aluminum imports. Those tariffs also are a bad idea because they adversely affect consumers and far more workers in manufacturing than they help workers in steel and aluminum production. But the paper tariffs are wrong regardless of other tariff policy. Casey should support the legislation to suspend them.