Footwear, retail industries put weight behind Obama trade deal

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The U.S. footwear and retail industries are ramping up their fall lobbying campaign behind President Obama’s Pacific Rim trade agreement.

The Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA) joined more than 100 footwear, apparel and travel goods companies and groups that sent a letter to Congress on Thursday arguing for a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement by the end of this year. 

{mosads}FDRA President Matt Priest, whose group represents more than 120 companies and 250 brands, said about two dozen of his group’s members will canvass Capitol Hill next week and urge support for the expansive Pacific trade agreement he says will provide billions in tariff relief.

To complement the letter, the footwear industry has a fly-in planned for next week with a few dozen members expected to canvass Capitol Hill to convince lawmakers that the TPP will benefit their businesses as well as U.S. consumers. 

The retail companies and groups are hanging their latest argument on behalf of the TPP on the start of the school year. 

“This year’s back-to-school season reminds us that, if the TPP goes into effect, the agreement 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 for their children,” the letter to Congress said. 

The groups, which include the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, argue the industry would save more than $1 billion in duties in the first year after TPP’s ratification. 

Those savings are expected to grow each year as the TPP’s provisions are phased in, they wrote. 

When fully implemented, the TPP will remove more than $2.8 billion of duties on U.S. imports of footwear, apparel and travel goods, the letter said.

“For the U.S., which still face high tariffs and other non-tariff trade barriers across TPP countries, the TPP represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reduce costs and open new markets for U.S. brands and retailers,” the letter said.

Under the TPP, about 85 percent of all footwear products coming into the United States will be immediately duty-free under the deal, according to the Commerce Department.

Tariffs on footwear average from about 10 percent and can reach up to 67.5 percent.

Without the heavy duties, the footwear and retail industries have said they could more easily add jobs and expand their businesses in the United States while offering better quality products and keeping prices down.

“The TPP will help our companies and brands successfully compete at home and in TPP countries, and bring real benefits by reducing costs and returning greater value to our customers,” the letter said.

But the deal faces stiff headwinds in Congress amid harsh criticism from presidential candidates Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, who both oppose the deal.

“These savings will be passed along to U.S. consumers in a number of ways, including price breaks and investments in product and materials innovation,” the groups wrote in the letter.

Pro- and anti-TPP groups are expected to take full advantage of the short time that Congress is in session this month before leaving for another long break until after the November elections.

The earliest a vote might take place on the TPP deal is during the lame-duck session.

Other signers of the letter include the along with companies such as Target, Gap, Under Armour, Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, The North Face and Coach. 

Tags Donald Trump Footwear Hillary Clinton Trans-Pacific Partnership

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