For years Norpac has argued that it faces unfair competition from Canadian papermakers, and now the Longview paper manufacturer wants the U.S. government to intervene to level the playing field.
Norpac filed a petition Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission asking the government to impose antidumping and countervailing duties against Canadian papermakers.
The company alleges that Canadian papermakers benefit from 65 different government subsidies that add up to “hundreds of millions of dollars.” The federal and provincial subsidies include government grants, tax breaks, subsidized loans, raw materials at below-market costs and cheap subsidized electricity, according to Norpac.
This allows Canadian manufacturers to sell paper at prices 16 percent to 65 percent lower than what the paper would normally sell for.
“We believe that Norpac and other U.S. producers have suffered greatly as a result of the unfair trade practices engaged in by Canadian producers and their governments,” Craig Anneberg, Norpac President, said in a prepared statement.
“While demand for all types of printing and writing papers is in a long-term decline, the burden of dealing with these declines has fallen disproportionately on Norpac and U.S. producers,” the company added in a statement.
Norpac notified its customers of the petition Wednesday, but the document isn’t publicly available yet. The petition covers all uncoated groundwood paper such as newsprint, high-bright newsprint, book paper, writing paper, directory paper and machine-finished paper.
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If the Department of Commerce decides to take the case, that would trigger a nearly year-long process in which Commerce and the International Trade Commission will conduct separate but related investigations.
Commerce will decide by May 2018 if Canadian papermakers are receiving unfair subsidies and dumping their products in the U.S. The International Trade Commission will decide by July 2018 if the U.S. paper industry is being injured by the alleged dumping practices.
High electricity costs continue to be a concern for Norpac, which is currently reviewing its electricity supply contracts with Cowlitz PUD and Bonneville Power Administration.
The papermaker is trying to cut costs and diversify its product offerings as it struggles to remain profitable in the shrinking newsprint and paper markets.
The Longview mill took a big financial blow this spring when it lost production time during a wastewater treatment problem at Nippon Dynawave. Norpac and several other nearby businesses were forced to reduce production to try to limit the industrial waste it sent to Nippon Dynawave’s wastewater treatment plant during the incident.
After the temporary shutdown, Norpac cut its employees’ salaries by 10 percent in May and reduced retirement benefits to save costs.
Norpac was a 50-50 joint venture between Weyerhaeuser Co. and Nippon, but the mill was bought out by One Rock Capital in October. There are about 400 non-union employees at the Longview mill, which produces newsprint, book paper and office copy paper.