(Washington, DC, May 14, 2018) – The Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws (CSUSTL) today expressed alarm at the introduction of the Senate bill entitled the “Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018” (PRINT Act). The bill proposes to suspend an active case seeking a remedy for unfair trade practices and to interject an entirely novel requirement aimed at protecting downstream users of the product from price increases that might result from a final affirmative determination in the case. The targeted case involves investigations into whether Canadian producers of “uncoated groundwood paper” (including newsprint) are both benefiting unfairly from Canadian government subsidies and from dumping the merchandise and, as a result, are injuring American newsprint producers by selling in the U.S. at unfairly low prices. While the sponsors of the bill purport to limit the effects of the bill to this one case, it constitutes a profound threat to an entire body of long-established law intended to promote free and fair trade.
“Every case seeking a remedy against unfair trade involves a potential return of prices in the U.S. to fair and market-driven levels,” said Thomas M. Sneeringer, President of CSUSTL. He continued, “When a foreign government subsidizes production, it gives its producers the benefit of an artificial “comparative advantage” when exporting to countries operating on market principles. It also frequently has the side effect of creating a domestic interest group that favors and supports the subsidy program, in order to purchase its inputs at an unfairly low price, regardless of the effect on domestic producers. That is clearly what has happened here, as American consumers of newsprint are now lobbying to allow the Canadian subsidies to go unchecked, despite the alleged injury (being carefully investigated and measured by the International Trade Commission) to American producers. While Senators sponsoring the bill can be credited with concern about newspaper publishers, it simply cannot be the trade policy of the United States to allow an entire productive sector to be deliberately wiped out by foreign unfair trade practices in order to grant to its customers access to artificially low-priced inputs from abroad. Senators might hope that this type of unprecedented intervention will be limited to this one case, but that cannot possibly be achieved. If the PRINT Act becomes the new means by which foreign governments lock in domestic customers for their favored producers, Senators should expect to be petitioned by downstream consumers in every dumping and subsidy case going forward, insisting on equal treatment.” Sneeringer added, “The newspaper publishing business is, indeed, facing daunting challenges, but their problems do not include having to compete with foreign governments propping up their competitors. Unfortunately, that is exactly what domestic newsprint producers have been facing for years, and they are merely turning to well-established legal means to address it.”
“This is a brazen, unprecedented and unwarranted attack on U.S. trade laws at a time when our government is working hard to address unfair trade practices around the world,” said Skip Hartquist, a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren, a Past President of CSUSTL and a member of its Executive Committee. Mr. Hartquist continued, “The bill attempts to inject politics into a fact- based administrative process which is designed to help U.S. companies compete with foreign producers which do not abide by the rules of trade.”
“U.S. trade remedy laws have been available to U.S. industries and their workers for more than 100 years and have repeatedly received bipartisan support in Congress to ensure that U.S. companies and U.S. jobs aren’t harmed by internationally recognized unfair trade practices,” said Terence P. Stewart, Managing Partner of Stewart and Stewart, Immediate Past President of CSUSTL and a member of the CSUSTL Executive Committee. Mr. Stewart continued, “These rights have been part of the GATT since 1947 and are part of the WTO. Judicial review and WTO review options exist where any concerns are raised about consistency of U.S. agency action with U.S. law or our international obligations under the WTO. The legislation that has been introduced ignores more than a century of bipartisan support for fair trade, would introduce limitations on the use of U.S. law that is not only unprecedented but harmful to U.S. producers and their workers and would make a mockery of the repeated promises by Congress and various Administrations to improve enforcement of U.S. laws to ensure fair trade in our markets.”
The United Steelworkers (USW), which belongs to CSUSTL and is represented on its Executive Committee, issued the following statement: “The PRINT Act sets a dangerous precedent where workers or companies who are victims of unfair trade could have their rights taken away by powerful special interests. Senators who agree to support the PRINT Act are giving a green light to special interest lobbyists and foreign governments to undermine trade enforcement by dismantling our nation’s carefully crafted trade laws.”
The Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws (“CSUSTL”) is an organization of companies, trade associations, labor unions, law firms, and individuals committed to preserving and enhancing U.S. trade laws and supporting trade policies that benefit the United States-based productive economy. CSUSTL’s members span multiple sectors, including manufacturing, technology, agriculture, mining, energy, and services. We are dedicated to ensuring that the laws against unfair trade are not weakened through legislation or policy decisions in Washington, DC, in international negotiations, or through dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and elsewhere.