AAFA Welcomes Bill to Add Travelgoods to Duty Benefit

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AAFA LogoArlington, VA—The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has welcomed a new measure which would make U.S. imports of travelgoods such as luggage, backpacks and handbags, eligible for duty benefits.

Introduced in the U.S. Senate, the GSP Update Act–full name Generalized System of Preferences Update for Production Diversification and Trade Enhancement Act—would recognize that travel goods are no longer an “import sensitive” industry by removing the current prohibition that prevents most travel goods from being eligible for duty-benefits under GSP.

‘No Longer Import Sensitive’

Under GSP, developing countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines, will be able to export travel products to the United States duty-free. Under the GSP UPDATE Act, China and Vietnam are not eligible to participate in the GSP program.

“Every time American families pack their bags and travel to visit family, commute to work, or ride the bus to school, we are reminded that Congress has a valuable opportunity to provide real cost savings for U.S. consumers,” said AAFA Vice Chairman Rick Helfenbein, president of TellaS Ltd.

“Extending duty free benefits to travel goods makes essential products more affordable and creates development opportunities in the countries that need them most. Under the GSP Update Act, countries like the Philippines and Cambodia will have increased opportunity to compete in the global market while providing U.S. consumers with more product choices.”

While making U.S. imports of travel goods potentially eligible for duty-benefits under GSP, the bill continues to protect the remaining domestic manufacturers by 1) excluding from GSP eligibility certain specific types of travelgoods still made in the United States and 2) requiring the U.S. government to do a review, and request public comment, before implementing any duty-benefits for travel goods under GSP.

Duties on the lowest-cost travel good can be as high as 17.6%, the AAFA reported. “Today, 99% of travel goods sold in the United Sates are imported, meaning that these duties amount to an unavoidable, hidden, and regressive tax on American consumers,” according to an AAFA statement.

AAFA CEO to Depart

In other news from AAFA this week, CEO Kevin Burke announced he will be stepping down as president/ceo, after nearly 13 years at the helm of the industry group.

Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke

Under his tenure, the industry has had its voice heard on numerous legislative and regulatory successes, including the passage and implementation of trade opening agreements and increased market access, social and environmental compliance, product safety regulations and global intellectual property rights.

The AAFA has also grown its membership to include more than 530 companies representing more than 1,500 world famous name brands; as well as expand its seminars and training programs into key global markets like China, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The group’s focus has also embraced issues like chemical management, product safety and sustainability.

“The key lessons I’ve learned during my years at AAFA are that the US apparel and footwear industry is always moving forward and that the industry must maintain its global perspective to remain competitive,” Burke said.

The search is now on for Burke’s replacement.

“With so many pressing policy issues facing the industry, including the near conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, time is of the essence,” said AAFA chairman Philip Williamson, president/chairman/ceo of Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Company.

Burke leaves AAFA on Jan. 21 next year and will be taking up a new post as president/ceo of the Airports Council International-North America.


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