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US footwear manufacturers call for Trump to end new China tariffs

More than 200 footwear manufacturers in the US have sent President Donald Trump an open letter calling for an end to what they call the “catastrophic” and “unfathomable” new tariffs on Chinese imports. 

The companies include global and household names such as Adidas, Cat, Converse, K-Swiss, Nike, Puma, Ugg, and Under Armour, among many others.

The letter was sent under the auspices of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, the leading industry association, representing a total of 500 companies and brands worldwide.

The text of the letter includes words like “catastrophic” to describe the potential effect of the additional tariffs Trump has announced. It also uses “unfathomable” to encapsulate the industry’s confusion over the decision.

It concludes with the words: “It is time to bring this trade war to an end.”

Trump has proposed an additional tariff of 25 per cent on many goods that are imported from China, and that includes many textile products such as footwear.

Although the proposal has not yet become law, concerns are being raised now to try and avert the measure.

The full text of the letter – minus the exhaustive list of company names – is published below.

Open letter to US President Donald Trump from Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America

As leading American footwear companies, brands and retailers, with hundreds of thousands of employees across the US, we write to ask that you immediately remove footwear from the most recent Section 301 list published by the United States Trade Representative on May 13, 2019. The proposed additional tariff of 25 percent on footwear would be catastrophic for our consumers, our companies, and the American economy as a whole.

There should be no misunderstanding that US consumers pay for tariffs on products that are imported. As an industry that faces a $3 billion duty bill every year, we can assure you that any increase in the cost of importing shoes has a direct impact on the American footwear consumer. It is an unavoidable fact that as prices go up at the border due to transportation costs, labor rate increases, or additional duties, the consumer pays more for the product.

This significant tax increase, in the form of tariffs, would impact every type of shoe and every single segment of our society. In fact, our industry’s trade association, the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA), ran the numbers and the results are staggering. FDRA estimates your proposed actions will add $7 billion in additional costs for our customers, every single year. This dramatic increase would be on top of the billions Americans already pay as a result of the current tariff burden on footwear imports that was started in 1930.

High footwear tariff rates fall disproportionately on working-class individuals and families. While US tariffs on all consumer goods average just 1.9 percent, they average 11.3 percent for footwear and reach rates as high as 67.5 percent. Adding a 25 percent tax increase on top of these tariffs would mean some working American families could pay a nearly 100 percent duty on their shoes. This is unfathomable.

There have been suggestions that industries should quickly shift sourcing to countries other than China in the wake of these additional tariff threats. While our industry has been moving away from China for some time now, footwear is a very capital-intensive industry, with years of planning required to make sourcing decisions, and companies cannot simply move factories to adjust to these changes. Any action taken to increase duties on Chinese footwear will have an immediate and long-lasting effect on American individuals and families. It will also threaten the very economic viability of many companies in our industry.

On behalf of our hundreds of millions of footwear consumers and hundreds of thousands of employees, we ask that you immediately stop this action to increase their tax burden. Your proposal to add tariffs on all imports from China is asking the American consumer to foot the bill. It is time to bring this trade war to an end.


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