Monday, February 22, 2010

What's up with Appleton Coated, NewPage, Sappi trying to get higher tariffs on Chinese paper.

To be clear all the info below comes from folks who represent Asia Pulp & Paper, the leading exporter of coated paper from China and Indonesia. It's fair to say they have skin in the game. But I consider the source and then see what makes sense to me.

To me it sounds like a couple of companies are trying to protect their market. That's not a problem. If I were a big company I would do the same thing. They do it because it's good for their company. If I were a shareholder that's precisely what I would expect.

But, please. No bullshit about good for America. Getting the United Steel Workers to join their suit, makes tactical sense, but give me a break.

Anyways here's what's on my radar so far.
The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) is investigating accusations that Chinese and Indonesian paper makers have received unfair subsidies from their governments and dumped certain types of coated paper on the U.S. market. The DOC will issue an important preliminary decision on subsidies on March 1
Over at Dead Tree Editions Blog ,whose insights and info I've grown to respect. He says:
If you think prices for coated paper have declined a lot recently, hang on to your hats. A bigger drop may be just around the corner.
I'm not sure about Appleton and NewPage but am told that
"Sappi is a South African multinational corporation. Sappi is gearing up operations in Asia, while it is closing plants in the U.S.
Of course there is the whining about subsidies for foreign paper. I don't have the details handy, but I'm pretty sure my readers remember the tax credits the paper companies got from the fed for smart business decisions to take advantage of the rules.

To get the full story, Dead Tree does a serious rundown at Both Sides in Asian-Paper Debate Are Lobbying U.S. Printers
U.S. industry received about $9 billion in black liquor credits during 2009. NewPage and SAPPI received more than $400 million last year in black liquor credits, which critics claim is an abuse of a program that was intended to encourage production of new, environmentally friendly fuels.
I have no problem with the companies. They are supposed to play by the rules to maximize shareholder value. I do however, have lots of problems with a Congress that make rules without a full consideration of the unintended consequences.

Bottom line is this kind of using the government to protect margins and markets really has to stop. It's what got us into the trouble we are in.

For the more reasoned and nuanced explanation, I suggest a read through Super Capitalism by Robert Reich. or you can watch a 10 minute vid here or the 60 minute video here.

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