The U.S. Commerce Department revised tariff threatening newspapers but a final decision still looms

Newspapers crumbling under a 26 percent hike in the cost of newsprint due to a tariff could see some relief.

The U.S. Commerce Department is going ahead with a tax on Canadian newsprint, a threat to the already-struggling American newspaper industry. But revised tariffs unveiled Thursday are mostly lower than those originally imposed earlier this year.

The tariffs would still hit the paper used by newspapers and other publications with an anti-dumping border tax as high as 16.88 percent.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a statement shortly after the Commerce Department decision, called the reduced tariff a “very positive step in the right direction.”

Schumer, who fought tariffs imposed on the raw material used by New York’s newspaper and printing companies, vowed to now use his influence to push the U.S. International Trade Commission to lower the tariffs even more.

The Commerce decision is not final. The independent U.S. International Trade Commission could change or kill the tariffs in a ruling scheduled for next month.

Congress is overwhelmingly opposed to the tariffs on the paper used by newspapers and other publications. In addition to Schumer, who declared in a newspaper column that the tax "would do irreversible harm" to the newspaper industry, House Speaker Paul Ryan contacted Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross directly to voice his concerns.

Newsprint is the usually the second-highest cost for newspapers. Already contending with falling readership and plummeting advertising revenue, newspapers are struggling as the tariffs drive up the cost of newsprint. The Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton, North Carolina, for instance, last week announced that it was dropping its eight-page color comics sections from its Sunday edition to cut costs.

At the Daily Messenger, Rick Emanuel, regional publisher for parent company GateHouse Media, responded last week to the tariffs: "Rising paper costs are placing a huge burden on properties, especially small, hometown papers. Next to staffing, newsprint is our second largest expense. If the costs continue to rise at the levels that they have been over the last six months, everyone will have to look at expense reductions to compensate. This could come at the cost of jobs — affecting already reduced staffing levels.”

Other businesses relying on paper see rising costs and are watching what happens with the tariffs. Kevin Carges owns Canandaigua Quick Print at 330 S. Main St. in Canandaigua, having bought the business in 1995. It provides everything from complex graphic design to five-color printing and handles small to massive print runs of hundreds of thousands.

In the last six months, Carges said his prices have increased 5 to 6 percent. He tries to control cost by buying larger quantities, but in some cases he has no choice but to pass on increased cost to customers. Carges said he finds the current trade troubles between the U.S. and Canada “hard to watch.”

“We have been such good allies,” said Carges, who hopes for a quick and fair resolution.

Includes reporting by The Associated Press