Washington—Urging U.S. trade officials to craft “21st century” duties and import guidelines for footwear, a group of 27 bipartisan members of Congress wrote Ron Kirk, the U.S. trade representative who is now negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, asking to reduce tariffs on footwear as part of the trade deal.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement currently being negotiated among the United States and eight other trade partners including: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
“Footwear tariffs are among the highest in the U.S. tariff schedule despite that less than 1% of footwear sold in the in U.S. is produced here, and the footwear that is produced here is largely manufactured with imported components that are duty-free or subject to very low duties,” the letter said.
Noting that Vietnam, one of the countries negotiating TPP, accounts for about 8% of U.S. footwear imports, the lawmakers said: “For those U.S. footwear companies sourcing athletic footwear in Vietnam, the vast majority of innovation, design and marketing—and therefore the bulk of the value of that footwear—is accomplished in the U.S., providing thousands of good-paying American jobs.”
Trade Associations Applaud Letter
After the letter’s release on Tuesday, The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) applauded the letter, saying reduced tariffs in the TPP would support high-value design, engineering and marketing jobs in the footwear industry.
“RILA supports a 21st Century TPP agreement that includes flexible and commercially-relevant rules for footwear that promote trade and investment in the TPP region,” said Stephanie Lester, vice president of international trade at RILA. “We thank all 27 Congressional supporters for adding their voice to the growing chorus that seeks to change outdated footwear rules to facilitate hundreds of thousands of American jobs and to help make footwear more affordable for American families.”
Matt Priest, president of FDRA, said the footwear industry is under severe cost pressure as raw materials and transportation expenses have increased and are facing tariffs designed for a 1930s economy.
“Eliminating these outdated tariffs on shoes would help keep shoes more affordable and allow investment in the research and development that drives U.S. competitiveness,” Priest said. “Specifically, the association is seeking immediate elimination of outdated tariffs, a competitive rule of origin, predictability, intellectual property protection, fair and open distribution rights and efficient trade flows.”
The letter to Kirk was spearheaded by Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and signed by twenty-seven members, including: Representatives John Barrow (D-GA), July Biggert (R-IL), Diane Black (R-TN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Paul Broun (R-GA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA), Fransisco Canesco (R-TX), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), David Dreier (R-CA), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Mike Kelly (R-PA) Wally Herger (R-CA), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Billy Long (R-MO), Greg Meeks (D-NY), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Jared Polis (D-CO), Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Adrian Smith (R-NE), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Greg Walden (R-OR).
Last fall, another group of bipartisan Congress members wrote a similar letter to Kirk about similar issues facing the apparel business in the United States.