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Maintain duty on footwear imports in TPP - US Congressmen
11
May '12
Congressman Mike Michaud, Chairman of the House Trade Working Group, yesterday sent a letter signed by 18 of his colleagues urging U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to maintain existing tariffs on footwear imports in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to ensure American companies such as New Balance can compete on a level playing field. Michaud and his colleagues sent a similar letter last year.

Vietnam, the world's second largest footwear exporter to the U.S., is a participant in TPP negotiations and is pushing the U.S. to remove duties on footwear in the agreement. Like the footwear sector in China, Vietnam's footwear industry benefits from government intervention, currency manipulation, and low labor standards.

New Balance holds the distinction as the only athletic shoe company that currently manufactures footwear in the U.S. The company has over 800 employees at their Maine facilities in Skowhegan, Norridgewock, and Norway. Michaud visited New Balance's Norridgewock facility last month to pick up personalized sneakers he then delivered to President Obama with a message that the U.S. footwear industry is important to Maine's economy.

“Vietnam is one of the world's biggest footwear producers because they do not play by the rules,” said Michaud. “Preserving U.S. tariffs is the only way the remaining American footwear companies can compete on a level playing field and keep jobs here in the U.S.”

The letter also urged the Administration to include strong Rules of Origin in the agreement and require at least 55% of footwear products to come from TPP countries. Allowing more content to come from other countries will benefit Chinese footwear companies and further threaten the U.S. sector.

Between 1999 and 2007, domestic production fell by nearly 75%. This decrease of production has led to the closure of footwear manufacturing facilities and the significant loss of manufacturing jobs. Since 1997, more than 28,000 American jobs in the footwear manufacturing sector have been lost, a decline of nearly 65%.

“For states like Maine whose economy depends on manufacturing, it is critical that we stop offshoring American jobs to our competitors,” said Michaud. “Our trade negotiators must prioritize our manufacturing sector, especially as millions of Americans remain out of work and as we try to get our economy back on track.”

House Trade Working Group

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