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Threat to impose tariffs helped better position Corner Brook mill, says union

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. - Star file photo

The threat of American tariffs was a grey cloud over Corner Brook Pulp and Paper all year long.

That dark cloud has now dissipated, but Paul Humber says its silver lining lingers on for the mill.

Humber is president of Unifor Local 242, one of several unions in the paper mill. He was reacting to news Wednesday that the U.S. International Trade Commission unanimously voted to overturn duties imposed on Canadian newsprint.

Related stories:

Corner Brook mill union president glad American tariff won’t be as drastic as first proposed

Tariff rates for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper have been reduced to 9.53 per cent.

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper about to be hit again with American tariff

Earlier this year, there were major concerns about the tariffs being requested by the Donald Trump administration. The American government had wanted to impose anti-dumping tariffs that would have amounted to a 22.16 per cent tariff for the Corner Brook mill and a countervailing duty that would have affected the mill with a 9.93 per cent tariff.

Earlier this month, the United States said it would not be imposing the anti-dumping tariff on Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and would reduce the countervailing duty to 9.53 per cent.

With Tuesday’s decision, none of the tariffs will come into effect.

Humber said the threat of the tariffs did three good things that will serve the mill well into the future.

Firstly, it forced the paper company to move into markets other than the United States, where the market has been declining anyway.

Secondly, noted Humber, concern about the tariffs has brought the newsprint industry together and that has helped push newsprint prices higher.

Finally, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper set about finding more ways to cut its operational costs in light of possibly having to pay the tariffs.

“The company managed to cut some of its wood costs and the operation is leaner now because of it,” said Humber. “Those things may have happened anyway, but the tariffs likely may have accelerated making those changes.”

Humber said Kruger, the mill’s Montreal-based parent company, has been paying into the tariffs since they were announced earlier this year and should now get all that money back.

“I hope they invest it back into the mill here,” he said.

The Western Star requested an interview with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and Kruger, but no response was received as of deadline Tuesday.

The provincial government was ecstatic with the triumph over Trump’s tariffs. As the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs, Premier Dwight Ball took on the file personally after the possibility of tariffs was announced about a year ago. He said it was a real team effort by provincial and federal government officials, along with folks from the industry, to lobby and convince the right people to vote down the tariffs.

Ball said the decision is more than just a win for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.

“It could have had a profound impact on the forest industry in general and also those other industries, like the agriculture industry, that are attached to this,” he said. “There was a lot at stake in those negotiations that took place in the last year.”

He said around 5,000 jobs and $300 million worth of economic activity in various sectors and mostly in rural communities, were on the line.

“The story today could be quite different if those tariffs had stayed in place,” said the premier. “We could be potentially talking about a much bigger impact than just a loss of jobs in those same communities.”

He said the unanimous vote shows government and the newsprint industry were right in calling out the tariffs as being unjustified from the start.

“I was an endorsement of the work we have done as a government and the group of people that has been working on this file with us,” the premier said of Tuesday’s decision. “We believed this was the right decision from Day 1.”

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