New trade bill excludes outdoor products from tariff relief

A new trade bill drafted by the House Ways and Means committee excludes several types of outdoor products from temporary tariff reductions. But revisions may be in the cards.
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Several types of footwear and other outdoor products could be subject to higher tariffs if changes aren’t made to a new trade bill drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee.

On Nov. 24, the Committee posted to its website a “Miscellaneous Trade Bill” that excludes many outdoor products -- including various types of footwear for skiing, snowboarding and fishing -- from temporary suspensions of import duties, Alex Boian, director of trade policy for the Outdoor Industry Association, told SNEWS®. Ski poles were the only outdoor products approved for tariff relief in this bill.

So-called “miscellaneous” tariff bills, usually passed by Congress every two or three years, temporarily suspend duties on products that are made outside the United States and do not compete with anything made in the United States. In the past, Congress has suspended duties on many outdoor products, such as waterproof/breathable footwear, and that duty relief has saved companies millions of dollars, Boian explained.

Boian told SNEWS that the outdoor products OIA added to the latest bill met the required criteria for duty relief; however, trade representatives deemed the outdoor products, as well as 40 or more products from other industries, as ones that “undermine trade negotiations.”

OIA has not received a clear explanation as to why these products have been said to undermine trade negotiations, he added, particularly since they meet previous requirements for duty relief and have been included in past trade bills. 

“We’re pushing back on that pretty aggressively because we feel like they’re applying criteria that have not been applied in the past,” he said. “OIA and other trade organizations have written a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, asking him to reconsider his opposition because it undermines the entire process” of such tariff bills.

Also, OIA Executive Director Frank Hugelmeyer was scheduled to meet with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the first week of December to discuss the issues in the bill.

As for the future of this version of the bill, Boian said the House and Senate could take it up again in December.

--Marcus Woolf

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