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The aluminum tariff that went into place in June is impacting printing plate manufacturers and the printers who rely on them for these products. With limited U.S. resources, these manufacturers have no choice but to source high-grade aluminum from foreign suppliers and pay the taxes.

How Could the Aluminum Tariff Impact Publishing Operations?

The Trump Administration enacted Section 232 Tariffs on June 1, levying a 10% tariff on aluminum and a 25% tariff on steel imports. While those outside the industry wouldn’t necessarily associate publishers with steel or aluminum, the printers serving those publishers rely on manufacturers for their printing plates which are made from aluminum. Here’s what publishers need to know about the aluminum tariff — and what it could mean for their businesses.

Effects of the tariffs

According to Richard Rindo, Eastman Kodak general manager and vice president, aluminum makes up approximately half the price of producing a printing plate. While the goal of the tariffs is to boost sales of domestic aluminum, unfortunately, no U.S. supplier produces the high grade of aluminum required for lithograph plates. The last one, Alcoa, quit producing it in 2017. As a result, US plate manufacturers (Agfa, Kodak, and Fujifilm are top among them) source their aluminum from European countries or Canada. As European manufacturers produce the highest-quality aluminum they need, many printers have no choice but to import their aluminum and pay the increased costs. Additionally, increasing ink costs and recent tariffs on Canadian imported newsprint are negatively impacting the bottom line of many printers.

To assist publishers and printers, the Printing Industries of America (PIA) recommends companies impacted by tariffs write their lawmakers, giving tangible examples of how the tariffs are impacting their businesses and the industry. Taking it a step further, many plate manufacturers are fighting the tariffs by making their case for an exemption, on the grounds that there are no US-based manufacturers capable of producing the high grade aluminum needed.

While the tariffs are in place, aluminum suppliers are passing the increases on to the plate manufacturers, who in turn are passing them on to their customers – the printers. Some printers are passing those increases on to their customers.

At Sheridan, we have chosen to absorb these costs rather than pass them on to our publisher customers. We continue to recycle all plates and ink as part of the standard environmental practices at each of our facilities, while always maintaining our customers’ expectations for high quality output. Paul Loy, VP of Operations at Sheridan, commented: “While the current situation is unfortunate, we stand committed to ensuring that our customers’ expectations are met. We are in continuous communication with our plate suppliers to ensure that our supply is not interrupted, nor their quality compromised by the tariffs. We are assisting the plate manufacturers as they apply for exemption from the tariff and hope to see a resolution in the very near future.“

With so much affecting the publishing world today, publishers can count on one thing: Sheridan is on top of all these changes. We will keep you apprised of everything impacting your publishing operations, help you navigate the changes, and assist you with all your publishing needs.