Why TPP is a class act
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Back-to-school season is a time of new beginnings. The start of the school year means a chance to make new friends, learn new subjects and buy new school necessities — such as clothing, shoes and backpacks.

In fact, the average American family planned to spend $674 on clothing, footwear, backpacks and other back-to-school supplies as they outfitted their children in kindergarten through 12th grade for the start of the 2016-2017 school year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual survey. What many don't appreciate is that there is a hefty hidden tax parents will pay as well.

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This back-to-school tax comes in the form of import tariffs levied on these items and passed along to consumers. In most cases, these tariffs date back to the Great Depression, created to protect American manufacturing jobs that existed in the 1920s and 1930s. Eight decades later, even though there is very little production of clothes and shoes in the United States, these tariffs are still imposed. The back-to-school tax for just clothes and shoes for the current school year is more than $47 per family.

Fortunately, relief from these antiquated tariffs is just around the corner.

The pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, if approved by Congress, would provide significant benefits to American families every year by reducing the costs of new school clothes, shoes, backpacks, athletic equipment and other school necessities. Even better, these savings would extend throughout the school year and into the summer vacation.

The TPP would join 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the United States, into a single regional trade area representing 800 million consumers and more than 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product. For the footwear, apparel and travel goods industry, the TPP represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reduce costs and open new markets for U.S. brands and retailers. The TPP would help U.S. companies successfully compete at home and in TPP countries. It would also bring real benefits by reducing costs and returning greater value to consumers.

Duty savings for our industries in the first year alone would exceed more than $1 billion as the United States and all other TPP countries reduce tariffs and eliminate other barriers to U.S.-made and U.S.-branded exports. These savings would grow each year as the TPP provisions are phased in and as new investment follows. These lower taxes would strengthen our businesses and benefit our customers.

U.S. consumers would be among the top beneficiaries. When fully phased-in, the TPP would remove more than $2.8 billion of duties currently charged on U.S. imports of footwear, apparel and travel goods. These savings could be passed along to U.S. consumers in a number of ways, including price breaks and innovation through investment in new products and materials.

But U.S. consumers aren't the only ones who would benefit if TPP takes effect. The apparel, footwear and travel goods industries account for more than 4 million skilled American jobs, which would benefit from increased competitiveness due to the TPP as we reach more customers at home and in other TPP countries. Overall, U.S. retail supports more than 40 million well-paying positions that stand to gain from increased opportunities at home and abroad. Through these market-opening prospects, the TPP would create new ways to employ more Americans throughout our supply chains — in distribution centers, design houses, retail stores, and company and regional headquarters.

Finally, our member companies continue our work to ensure the safety and empowerment of the workers who make our products, and to source our products in a sustainable manner. The TPP's strong and innovative environmental and labor provisions complement the work we are doing on the ground, align with our company values and further level the playing field for our products in the right way.

As we help our children prepare for the challenges and opportunities of a new school year, we should do our utmost to help our families, our workers and our economy do the same. Passing and quickly implementing the TPP is a smart policy that keeps America at the head of the class.

Helfenbein, Hughes, Kennedy, Priest, Pittenger, Roberts and Shay are the presidents of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, the Travel Goods Association, the Outdoor Industry Association, and the National Retail Federation, respectively.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.