A resolution urging the U.S. Commerce Department to impose additional duties on the flow of cheap paper from foreign countries into American markets passed the legislature’s the Kentucky House Committee on Labor and Industry Thursday and now goes to the full House for consideration.
Sponsored by Rep. Dean Schamore, House Resolution 78 requests an investigation into unfair trade practices involving certain types of uncoated paper being sold in the United States at prices less than the cost of the product in the exporters’ home country, a practice known as “dumping.”
“What we have are folks from Communist China selling paper over here cheaper than they do in their own country, which puts American companies at risk of losing thousands of high-paying jobs that are essential to maintaining our communities,” Rep. Schamore said. “It’s a practice that’s got to stop, and we’re requesting the Commerce Department’s urgent attention to this matter so we can protect and keep those jobs here at home.”
Rep. Schamore’s 10th House District includes Hancock County where Domtar’s Pulp and Paper Mill in Hawesville operates. A 2013 announcement from the company signaled their intent to invest some $20 million locally to upgrade and add equipment, leading to the retention of 450 jobs. While the investment signaled a positive note for the region and the paper industry, since 2011, eight United States paper mills have either closed or curtailed operations.
Most recently, domestic manufacturers of uncoated freesheet paper, which is printing and writing papers like copy paper, are under direct threat from illegal trade practices by foreign competitors from China, Indonesia, Brazil, Portugal and Australia. From 2011 to 2013, uncoated freesheet paper imports increased 44 percent, with imports increasing 40 percent from the first nine months of 2013 to the first nine months of 2014. Domtar recently joined the United Steelworkers and three other companies that manufacture uncoated freesheet paper in filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission, alleging that foreign competitors are unfairly competing in the United States.
“Since 2000, the U.S. government has found conclusive evidence of certain paper products being dumped in the domestic market and has imposed duties on these products to discourage the illegal dumping practice,” Rep. Schamore said. “It’s obvious, though, that those duties that have been imposed aren’t working well enough to deter these aggressive practices against American companies and American jobs. We need more assistance, and we’re pressing for it.”
HR 78 asks the U.S. Commerce Department to investigate the flow of cheap paper into the country; to estimate the direct and indirect impact these trade practices have on domestic producers of paper products; and to recommend the imposition of duties on imports of paper products that are unfairly priced. Additionally, the resolution directs the clerk of the state House of Representatives to send a copy of the resolution to President Barack Obama, each member of the United States Congress and the secretary of the United States Department of Commerce.
“On behalf of the colleagues at Domtar’s Hawesville mill, as well as my colleagues at Domtar’s paper converting facility in nearby Owensboro, I wish to thank Rep. Schamore for introducing the resolution before the committee today,” said Steven Henry, general manager of Domtar’s Pulp and Paper Mill in Hawesville.