The US Commerce Department on Thursday said it would reduce a tariff on Canadian paper used by the US newspaper and publishing industry.

The anti-dumping duties, which had been as high as 22.16 percent, will be capped at 16.88 percent, the department said.

The International Trade Commission could still reduce or eliminate the tariff. Almost 20 members of Congress and representatives of the newspaper industry testified to the commission last month that the tariff posed a threat to the future of local newspapers across the nation.

The US imposed the preliminary tariff in March on uncoated groundwood paper imported from Canadian mills and used as newsprint by the US newspaper industry.

It was in response to a complaint from North Pacific Paper Co in Washington state. It claimed that Canadian paper manufacturers were being subsidized by their government, giving them an unfair price advantage over their US counterparts. The mill, which was bought in 2016 by New York hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners, is one of five left in the US.

Newsprint often is the second-biggest operating expense, after salaries, for most newspapers. The US newspaper industry said the tariffs increased newsprint prices by 25 to 30 percent and threatened the ability of some newspapers to continue publishing.

The increase in newsprint costs caused many newspapers in the US to reduce their page count.

The Tampa Bay Times in Florida said it was cutting up to 50 jobs due to soaring paper cost. A newspaper in Lumberton, North Carolina, The Robesonian, announced it was dropping its eight-page color comics section from Sunday editions.

In an editorial last week, the newspaper said it made the "not-so-funny" decision to cut the comics because of rising costs spurred by the US government's tariffs on Canadian newsprint.

Donnie Douglas, executive editor of The Robesonian, told ABC News that the newspaper decided it was better to cut the comics than risk reducing staff or freelancers who cover local news and serve as watchdogs for local government.

The newspaper, with a Sunday circulation of 6,200, is based in the town of about 21,000 people around 160 kilometers south of Raleigh, North Carolina.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that the department also would revise downward its preliminary ruling that Canada provides unfair subsidies of between 4.42 and 9.93 percent to its mills that produce the paper. The new rates will be between 0.82 and 9.81 percent.

"This was a complicated and unique case," Ross said in a statement.

Pin It