Outdoor industry companies face potential punitive fines from U.S. Customs Service

Mounting trade pressures may lead to punitive actions on apparel imports, which could lead to heavy financial burdens being levied on outdoor industry companies. That's the message that Outdoor Industry Association staff and executives from Columbia Sportswear, Cabela's, GoLite, Isis, The North Face and W.L. Gore heard during a recent Washington, D.C., visit to learn of growing issues that could affect the industry this year.
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Mounting trade pressures may lead to punitive actions on apparel imports, which could lead to heavy financial burdens being levied on outdoor industry companies. That's the message that Outdoor Industry Association staff and executives from Columbia Sportswear, Cabela's, GoLite, Isis, The North Face and W.L. Gore heard during a recent Washington, D.C., visit to learn of growing issues that could affect the industry this year.  

Congressional leaders mentioned to OIA and the executive team that they expect trade issues with China to be a primary focus in the upcoming elections. Punitive legislation is being introduced seeking tougher action on China. Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have pending legislation to assess a punitive tariff of 27.5 percent on all China exports to the United States -- click here for more information.

In addition, the recently signed China trade agreement exempts ski and snowboard pants from quota, but that exemption has proven to be narrowly defined by U.S. Customs Service, forcing several manufacturers to scramble for quota late in the process.

"Due to the Customs Service's strict interpretation, companies are receiving customs ruling against products that are obviously ski or snowboard pants," said Frank Hugelmeyer, OIA's president. "Small manufacturers could bring in product under the exemption not knowing that there has been limiting rulings by U.S. Customs Service."

Apparel manufacturers are urged to review recent U.S. Customs Service rulings regarding "critically sealed seams" or "knit performance ski pants" to avoid recall orders or heavy punitive fines from customs officials.

"Last year, these issues affected manufacturers and retailers alike," said Hugelmeyer. "When product can't get into the country or importers pay massive duty, retail sales suffer. We're on the front lines of innovation establishing new methods of construction, design, fabric and technology that does not fit into archaic definitions created 40 years ago. There is needless uncertainty around trade issues that OIA is determined to address."

"Based on our meetings with the administration and members of Congress, it is clear to me that the outdoor industry must be involved now and going forward in addressing our trade issues," said Kim Coupounas, CEO of GoLite and chair of OIA's board. "Decisions are being made in D.C. that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars to our industry."

Be sure to listen to the exclusive SNEWS® podcast from our coverage of a meeting at the recent OIA International Trade Seminar held during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market -- click here.

Contact OIA's Alex Boian at aboian@outdoorindustry.org or 303-444-3353, ext. 209, to ensure your company is kept abreast of this issue.

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