PORTLAND, Maine — U.S. trade officials have agreed to give an expedited review to duties on Canadian paper imports that were imposed at the request of UPM Madison and Verso Paper.

U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins said the Commerce Department plans to put that review on an expedited schedule. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Gov. Paul LePage also wrote to the department requesting that quick review.

The tariffs on imports of supercalendered paper grades from Canada received final approval in November, putting a 20.18 percent duty on such paper from the Port Hawkesbury mill in Nova Scotia, a 17.87 percent duty on Resolute Paper and an 18.85 duty on such imports from Irving Pulp and Paper and Catalyst Paper Corp., which owns the Rumford mill.

The Maine delegation raised concern about those two final duties as Irving and Catalyst together employ around 1,000 people in Maine.

Trade officials did not investigate in detail allegedly unfair Canadian government subsidies to Irving and Catalyst, but based the tariff for those companies on review of Port Hawkesbury and Resolute.

“Irving and Catalyst are entitled to a fair and fact-based investigation,” King and Collins said in a joint statement Tuesday.

Both companies contest they have not received any subsidies that are grounds for the assessment of tariffs and neither was investigated individually in the case.

The senators reiterated Poliquin’s and LePage’s concerns, saying they support the tariffs to protect the UPM Madison mill but “believe it is unfair for the Department of Commerce to apply a tariff based on that case without determining whether or not Irving and Catalyst received subsidies.”

UPM Madison and Verso Corp., which is going through a bankruptcy restructuring, formed The Coalition for Fair Paper Imports to file their petition one year ago for trade duties on supercalendered paper with U.S. regulators.

LePage in a July 2015 letter expressed concern about assessing tariffs on Irving and Catalyst without individualized investigations, saying it could put their jobs in Maine at risk.


Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.