The reintroduction of a bill that would eliminate tariffs on imports of some recreational performance apparel into the US has been welcomed by trade groups representing outdoor, apparel and footwear firms.

The bipartisan US Optimal Use of Trade to Develop Outerwear and Outdoor Recreation (OUTDOOR) Act would benefit products like jackets and pants for hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding, its supporters say.

As well as making these items more affordable for consumers, it would encourage participation in outdoor activities, and help designers and retailers of performance apparel better compete in the global economy.

The US OUTDOOR Act would create new classifications within the US Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) that are specific to knit and woven recreational performance outerwear, where protection from the elements is essential.

Imports under those classifications would in turn be duty-free, reflecting an International Trade Commission report that showed there is no commercially viable production of recreational performance outerwear in the United States.

"We support passage of this important legislation because it will help spur product innovation, make performance outerwear more affordable, promote healthy outdoor-focused lifestyles and stimulate job growth," says Tim Boyle, president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear Company.

It is estimated that the outdoor industry contributes $730bn to the US economy each year.

The current tariffs on recreational performance outerwear were originally implemented to protect US manufacturers from foreign competition, and can add as much as 28% to its retail cost, according to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

"Knocking down barriers to trade is one way the US apparel and footwear industry is able to maintain its competitive edge in the global marketplace," says Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). 
"Swift passage of the US OUTDOOR Act would help propel the US outdoor apparel industry to the next level as they develop new and innovative high-tech gear to be enjoyed by outdoor recreational enthusiasts all around the world."