Proposed changes to tariff bills would affect outdoor industry

Two weeks ago, SNEWS brought you a recap of tariff legislation making its way through Washington, D.C. this summer, and in that short time, several changes have come up that would affect the outdoor industry. Read on for the updates.
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Two weeks ago, SNEWS brought you a recap of tariff legislation making its way through Washington, D.C. this summer, and in that short time, several changes have come up with the bills that would affect the outdoor industry.

First up is an update on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a multilateral free trade agreement up for consideration by the U.S. Congress. You can read our full explanation of the bill here, but in short the legislation would reduce tariffs on many items between the United States and Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. This includes imports and exports within the outdoor industry.

New last week is that Mexico and Canada have accepted invitations to join the TPP.

The Outdoor Industry Association “is analyzing how Mexico and Canada will impact the negotiations — what trade rules have they accepted in order to be admitted into the negotiation,” Director of Tade Policy Alex Boian said. “It is clear, however, that the addition of our NAFTA partners will be significant for the outdoor industry.”

Next up is an update on the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, or MTB, a large package of smaller tariff bills that Congress routinely passes to temporarily suspend or reduce import products that are not made in the United States.

The latest MTB has been stalled on Capitol Hill as some lawmakers view the duty suspensions (money that would go into the government’s coffers) as earmarks for those companies with increased access to lobbyists and politicians. They’re withholding their votes and pushing for reform within the MTB process.

South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint and Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill had proposed that companies should seek tariff waivers directly through the U.S. International Trade Commission, instead of the current process of seeking members of Congress, either directly or through lobbyists, to introduce the bills.

The proposal didn’t gain much traction, so new last week was updated compromise, this time lead by Republican Senator Rob Portman, McCaskill and 17 cosponsors, where it gives companies the option of going through the trade commission, a congressman or lobbyist. This essentially adds the trade commission route for those without high-level political access, such as a small outdoor company, but also keeps the current route for those chummy with their politicians or lobbyists.

The reform would also add some transparency by requiring the trade commission to publish a report outlining the products that were considered, but not included due to objections from the government or private entity. In other words, we’d learn who was pushing against certain tariff reductions to protect their business or constituents.

The outdoor industry has utilized previous MTB legislation to save an estimated $30 million, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. For example, the last round significantly reduced nearly 40 percent footwear tariffs to zero.

--David Clucas

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