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Schumer: Unfair Tariff Affecting Upstate Business

Lucas Willard

 Update 9/16/15: A Commerce official responded to a request for comment saying: "In this proceeding, the Department of Commerce is investigating whether imports of Canadian-produced supercalendered paper are being unfairly subsidized by the federal Canadian government and several provincial governments.  No matter what may be the outcome of this investigation, in no circumstance would supercalendered paper produced in the United States be subject to any U.S. countervailing duties." 

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer toured Washington County’s largest private employer today and said a new tariff could negatively impact the business.

The New York Democrat toured Irving Tissue in Washington County. Located in a region known for its forest products industry, the company that manufactures tissue and paper towel products employs 300 workers in Fort Edward.

Speaking before a group of employees, Schumer urged the U.S. Commerce Department to investigate Irving in a case that is requiring the company to pay an 11 percent tax at the U.S.-Canadian border on material it produces at its facilities in Canada.

“And I am going to do everything I can do reverse it and reverse it quickly, because it relates to creating good-paying jobs here in Fort Edward and in Washington County,” said Schumer.

Schumer said four companies were hit with the new tax after two were found to be violating U.S. trade law. Irving, however, did not break the law.

Schumer said the tariff will hurt future business.

“This year they’ll only pay about $18 million in these refunds but it will go up to $42 million next year. Now you say, ‘Well, you know, if a company makes a mistake, if a company is violating our trade laws, they ought to pay a price.’ But here’s the catch. Irving did nothing wrong.”

Co-CEO James Irving invited Schumer to tour the Fort Edward facility after approaching him in Washington.

“We’re not asking for an outcome here. We’re not saying, ‘Don’t give us a duty.’ If we’ve done something wrong, that’s fine, assess us. If we haven’t though, don’t assess us, but right now, as the Senator said, it’s like two people robbed a bank and they arrested four people, two who were nowhere near the bank.”

Irving said the tax is not impacting any current projects but could threaten growth.

“This is a cornerstone operations for our forest products business. It’s a key piece of the business. It’s making a lot of the tissue products which uses a lot of pulp, and it’s all integrated; our forestry and so-on.”

J.D. Irving took over the Fort Edward plant from company Kimberly Clark two decades ago and has invested about $300 million in the facility.

The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schumer also addressed General Electric’s announcement that it would be sending 500 turbine manufacturing jobs to its facilities overseas after Congress failed to renew funding for the Export-Import Bank. About 200 jobs would have been supported in Schenectady.

While a measure to fund the agency has passed in the Senate, the Democrat urged the Republican-controlled House to bring the bill up for a vote. 

“It’s outrageous to hold it up. It’s a small group of ideologues that say the government shouldn’t be doing this. Well, the German government and the French government, who have Siemens and all the competitors of GE, help their companies to create good paying jobs. Why don’t we?”

Schumer’s Democratic colleagues including Kirsten Gillibrand and Capital Region Congressman Paul Tonko have also urged reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Republican Representatives Elise Stefanik and Chris Gibson have also signed on to legislation to re-authorize the agency.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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