Coated Paper Case Ruling and the Future of Print

By now I’m sure you have all read about last Friday’s ITC ruling in the coated paper case, and the fact that APP (Asia Pulp & Paper) will appeal. Already, the blogosphere is crowded with comments pro and con.

Let me try to add some perspective.

We want free trade, but we want jobs. We don’t want jobs shipped offshore, but we want our cheap imported products from China or Costa Rica or wherever. We can’t have it both ways. What some of us seem to want is the cheap imported goods, as long as our jobs are secure. We buy from Wal-Mart and then complain that our manufacturing base is gone.

Forget for a moment what’s best for you or for me—what’s best for our country? Unlimited free trade, with no limits on dumping and foreign subsidies as we lose jobs overseas? Or extreme protectionism? I think most of us would agree that we need to be in between somewhere. And we can all disagree on “in between” we need to be.

As for this case, printers and merchants who are benefiting from low-priced paper imports are against the duties; those who have to compete with them are in favor of the duties. It’s not ideology; it’s business.

It has been argued that the paper industry is hypocritical to be complaining about subsidies when it has gotten billions in black liquor tax credits. This is a fair criticism. I think the black liquor credits represented a failure of our government to do its homework and look at the full picture. But don’t blame the mills—who among us would voluntarily turn down a legal tax deduction? And, more to the point, these credits were temporary and they are no longer in place.

Let’s try to clarify a few things. The U.S. industry is not losing market share because it has not invested in technology. Domestic suppliers are losing share to foreign mills with lower labor costs, lower environmental costs, artificially devalued currency in China, and now, according to the findings in this case, illegal subsidies. Would you invest in new papermaking technology in a declining market when faced with these realities? I wouldn’t. Frankly I’d have an exit strategy.

Jack Miller is founder and Principal Consultant at Market-Intell LLC, offering Need to Know™ market intelligence in paper, print and packaging. Previously, he was senior consultant, North America, with Pira International.

Known as the Paper Guru, Jack is the former director of Market Intelligence with Domtar, where he also held positions as regional sales manager, territory sales manager and product manager. He has presented at On Demand, RISI’s Global Outlook, PRIMIR, SustainCom World and at various IntertechPira conferences. Jack has written for Printing Impressions, Canadian Printer, Paper 360, PaperTree Letter and Package Printing, along with publishing a monthly e-newsletter, MarketIntellibits.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from The College of the Holy Cross and has done graduate studies in Statistics and Finance.

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  • http://TomConley Tom Conley


    All due respect to your history in the paper business, I disagree with you.

    I spent a few years myself in the paper distribution business. With that said, I have watched the mills over the years squander the opportunities to reinvest in newer technology and then blame it on the government, stock holders, etc., all under the guise of we have to show quarterly profits, when they should have had a much longer term view in mind.

    The printing business is under assault from any number of areas. As the coated mills begin to raise the prices (and they will) further pressure will be put on our business and give further opportunity for consumers to move to other types of communication.

    It is easy for someone who is not in the printing business to say, “Hey, buck up, quite using the cost increases as a crutch”. When if fact the mills are doing just that.

    GM, Chrysler, AIG, Fanny, Fredie and more all got government subsidies. The printing business is only looking for a level playing field. We could ask for a subsidy because the internet has taken away our market share.

    Jack have you ever owned a printing business, had to meet payroll? Come march in our moccasins for a while, I’ll bet you will write you article a little different.

    Tom Conley