Shoe firms urge end to US-China trade war

In response to US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he would increase tariffs on $200bn worth of US-bound Chinese imports from 10% to 25%, some of the world’s major footwear companies have called for the trade war to end.

A letter to the president, signed by 173 shoe firms, claims: “The proposed additional tariff of 25% on footwear would be catastrophic for our consumers, our companies, and the American economy as a whole.”

The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) notes that footwear in the US – 99% of which is imported – is already subject to levies far higher than the average for imported consumer goods.

The letter points out: “While US tariffs on all consumer goods average just 1.9%, they average 11.3% for footwear and reach rates as high as 67.5%.

“Adding a 25% tax increase on top of these tariffs would mean some working American families could pay a nearly 100% duty on their shoes,” hitting those on lower incomes hard and threatening the viability of the industry into the bargain.

A shift in sourcing could offer a solution to the problem. Of course, President Trump suggested firms selling to the US market make their products “at home in the USA and there is no Tariff [sic]”.

However, the letter continues: “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.”

Besides setting up or adapting manufacturing facilities, footwear retailers seeking to move out of China would also need to establish new supply chains to bring their goods to their US customer base.

According to FDRA, China and Vietnam are the world’s largest footwear-producing countries.

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