Outdoor industry gains partial victory on tariffs

The Outdoor Industry Association said late Friday that it had gained a partial, but significant victory in getting the White House to reverse its opposition to eight of 18 tariff suspension proposals.
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The Outdoor Industry Association said late Friday that it had gained a partial, but significant victory in getting the White House to reverse its opposition to eight of 18 tariff suspension proposals.

The eight outdoor industry proposals, now backed by President Barack Obama’s administration, would continue previously enacted duty suspensions on certain performance footwear that are set to expire on Jan. 1, 2013.

Since 2006, the industry and consumers have saved more than $30 million because of the tariff suspensions, OIA officials claim. Without the duty suspensions, some outdoor footwear production costs could rise as much as 38 percent, said OIA Director of Trade Alex Boian. OIA estimates that footwear accounts for about 30 percent of outdoor specialty sales.

The Obama administration still opposes 10 new tariff suspension or reduction proposals put forth by OIA.

“OIA will continue to press the administration and congressional leaders to include all 18 bills in the final legislative package and will request that the industry again take action in the coming days,” Boian said.

None 18 tariff suspensions are a done deal yet. Congress must still approve the proposals, which are part of the larger Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, including thousands of proposals from other industries. The MTB — something SNEWS told readers about back in June — is a large package of smaller tariff suspension proposals that Congress routinely passes to temporarily suspend or reduce import duties of products that are not made in the United States.

The Obama administration has opposed some of these MTBs as it works on other tariff deals, mainly the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, to promote free trade with numerous Asian countries. In order to gain leverage in that longer-term bill, the administration argues that it doesn’t want to give up bargaining tools of suspending certain U.S. tariffs through the MTB.

OIA took the opinion that the president’s gamble was too big of a risk to outdoor industry, and it rallied its members to speak out. “Outdoor industry companies responded in force, sending nearly 200 emails to Congress and the administration in less than one week,” OIA President and CEO Frank Hugelmeyer said.

“Senator Cantwell (D-Wash.), Representative Andrew Harris (R-Md.), and Representative John Carney (D-Del.) were instrumental in getting the administration to reverse its position,” Boian said. "Specifically, Erin Gulick, the senator’s trade legislative assistant fought hard to get the administration to reconsider its opposition."

Further information on the issue from OIA can be found at: outdoorindustry.org/IndustryAtRisk.

--David Clucas

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