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Five Footwear Trade Groups Warn Trump of ‘Existential Peril’ Should Footwear Tariffs Rise

Outrage over President Trump’s proposed tariffs has reached a new high.

Following a letter sent by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) last week, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and three other footwear trade groups have added their voices to the industry outcry in a new statement released today urging the Trump administration to reconsider adding an additional 25 percent duty on imported Chinese footwear, machinery and components.

Along with the AAFA, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), the Rubber and Plastic Footwear Manufacturers Association (RPFMA) and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SPFIA) have joined with the FDRA to voice their concerns over the possible impact additional tariffs could have on consumer spending, prices and the footwear industry as a whole.

In the letter, the groups warn that the effects of additional tariffs on footwear made in China would be detrimental to nearly every aspect of the footwear industry.

“The U.S. footwear domestic manufacturing and U.S. footwear import industries stand united in expressing our grave concerns these tariffs won’t help any segment of our industry,” the letter reads. “The proposed additional tariff on footwear, footwear components, and footwear machinery would do untold damage to our industry, ultimately affecting consumers in a negative way and hamstringing what has traditionally been a hugely successful part of the American economy. We, as an industry, see merit in much of what your Administration has accomplished to level the global playing field. We have significant concerns that this latest action will have unintended consequences that will damage our industry for years to come.”

Previously, the FDRA spoke out against the possible tariff escalation with the support of more than 170 footwear companies, including Nike and Adidas, calling the new duties “unfathomable” and suggesting that some working-class families could be looking at a nearly 100 percent duty if the new tranche is approved.

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With the addition of the AAFA and other trade organizations, the footwear coalition hopes this new letter shows that the entire footwear industry stands united against additional new duties on its already heavily-taxed footwear imports.

“The trade associations signing this letter represent those who have worked tirelessly to protect footwear manufacturing in the United States and those who import most of their footwear from across the globe,” the groups wrote.

“We disagree on many things but on the following point we agree: The Section 301 list released on May 13 by the United States Trade Representative poses a serious threat to the domestic footwear industry, will increase costs for consumers, and ultimately will have unintended consequences that could imperil the economic models that both the domestic manufacturing and import footwear industries have been building,” they added.

The letter contends that the new duties could undermine the domestic footwear industry, apart from the obvious effects they could have on footwear imported from China. The industry coalition suggests that because many footwear inputs are not produced in the United States, these duties would end up punishing “Made in America” footwear all the same.

According to the letter, for every $1 million worth of these Chinese components imported under the new tariffs, footwear production costs would rise by an estimated $250,000.

Additionally, the groups say that its members have already begun to move away from China over the past several years but that the process is both long and arduous and cannot be completed in the short, or even medium, term. If supply chains are forced to adapt at a moment’s notice, the letter contends, the impact could eat into the compliance, R&D, logistics, and design roles—roughly 1 million jobs—that currently exist on American shores.

On top of the FDRA claim that American consumers could be forced to pay more than $3.5 billion in footwear costs handed down by taxed importers, the new letter adds more weight to the claim that tariffs are indeed not paid by the Chinese but instead levied on the average American shopper.

For the five industry groups, the idea of new footwear duties is not only unconscionable for the American consumer but also the repudiation of an industry that has been a defining part of American commerce for decades.

“The footwear industry has been a proud contributor to the American economy for centuries, serving as a source of manufacturing and innovation,” the letter concludes. “As an industry, we have been recalibrating from China over the last several years, and we all have a goal to increase value-added activities and jobs in the United States regardless of the character of our individual supply chains. But this move to increase duties on machinery, components and finished footwear would have drastic effects on patriotic American companies, some of which would face existential peril.”