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Obama Administration Lifts Opposition To Tariff Suspension Bills In Response To Outoor Industry Demands

The Obama administration has lifted its opposition to eight of the 18 outdoor industry miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs) that reduce import tariffs on certain specialty outdoor footwear products that do not have any viable manufacturing options in the United States. The administration, which unexpectedly announced its opposition to the MTBs on November 16, announced its reverse in position on Friday, November 30, in response to significant demand and protest from several outdoor industry manufacturers. Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) played in an integral role in facilitating the outdoor industry’s demands for the administration to lifts its opposition.

The Obama administration’s initial opposition to the MTBs, a move that threatened to increase prices on hiking, hunting, fishing and trail running footwear by as much as 38 percent, was highly contested by OIA; after the administration announced its initial position, OIA issued an action alert, urging the outdoor industry to speak out in favor of the bills. Outdoor industry companies responded in force, sending nearly 200 emails to Congress and the administration in less than one week. As such, the outdoor industry has been abuzz with relief upon hearing news of the administration’s reverse in position on the MTBs.

“This is a major victory for the outdoor industry and also for our consumers,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of OIA. “The administration’s new position will help ensure stable retail prices on these leading outdoor products and keep them more affordable for American families.”

“These bills will continue to be highly beneficial for footwear companies across the outdoor industry,” said Jim Zwiers, president of the Outdoor Group at Wolverine Worldwide. “We’re proud to be a part of an industry that quickly mobilized to protect jobs in the outdoor industry and promote investment in footwear innovation.”

“We set our pricing on a six-month basis, so we would have had to absorb the increased costs,” said Jonathan Lantz, president of La Sportiva North America. “We would have taken a big hit, which would have limited our plans for hiring, marketing and employee appreciation programs in 2013.”

One of the most critical and successful trade tools supporting the outdoor industry, MTBs have redirected more than $30 million in cost savings towards new American jobs, investments in innovation and lower prices for families.

See below for details on the Obama administration’s reverse in course:

The eight bills are extensions of previously enacted import-duty suspensions on certain performance footwear, and have saved outdoor industry businesses and consumers more than $30 million since 2006. The bills that are no longer opposed are: H.R. 4502/S.3037, 4503/S.3036, 4504/S.3039, 4505/S.3038, 4926/S.3043, 4927/S.3042, 4928/S.3041 and 4929/S.3040.

The House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee still need to include the bills in the final MTB legislative package. And, 10 new tariff bills are still opposed by the administration and Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) said it will continue to press the administration and Congressional leaders to include all 18 bills in the final legislative package. OIA will request that the industry take further action in the coming days.

The eight bills are continuations of existing bills, meaning that the administration’s opposition would have resulted in sudden increased tariffs on specialty footwear products that represent 30 percent of all outdoor specialty sales.

 “We appreciate that the administration heard our case,” said Mike Ratchford director of government affairs for W.L. Gore and Associates. “Today’s decision helps ensure that the outdoor industry will continue to provide innovative products for outdoor enthusiasts.”

Senator Cantwell (D-WA), Representative Harris, and Representative Carney were instrumental in getting the administration to reverse its position. Specifically, Erin Gulick, the senator’s trade legislative assistant, fought hard to get the administration to reconsider its opposition.