New Balance anti-TPP stance disappoints footwear industry
The US footwear industry has voiced its disappointment that athletic brand New Balance has come out in opposition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.
Matt LeBretton, VP of public affairs at footwear group New Balance, said the company was taking a stand on the TPP after previously remaining neutral on the controversial trade deal.
He said New Balance was anti-TPP because the deal would be bad for US footwear manufacturing and jobs, as well as threatening the company's lead as a top domestic athletic-shoe manufacturer. New Balance specifically took issue with tariff reductions on imported footwear, particularly from Vietnam, the fastest growing footwear exporter, which it said will hurt its domestic business.
New Balance's position in the TPP, however, is at odds with others in its industry who have generally supported and endorsed the trade deal. The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) reaffirmed its strong support for the TPP this week.
"TPP will provide opportunities for our members to reduce costs, stay competitive, and enter new markets," CEO and president Rick Helfenbeid said. "Even a one-year delay in the implementation of TPP will cost our industry a billion dollars in lost savings."
Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) said he was "disappointed" at New Balance's change of heart on what is a "vitally important" agreement for the entire US footwear industry over a matter unrelated to TPP.
"New Balance's position is especially surprising as it is one of the companies that would see significant tariff reduction under the agreement. In fact, TPP will save footwear consumers and companies $450m the first year of implementation and $6bn over the first decade. That is why 99% of the entire footwear industry, both domestic manufacturers and importers, support TPP and why we will continue to lead the charge in explaining to lawmakers how this agreement will strengthen jobs across the US and provide real value to footwear consumers."
LeBretton, however, said he was in favour of efforts to get the Berry Amendment on defence contracts extended to athletic footwear and was keen to set up a meeting with the Department of Defense.
"The Berry Amendment was our offensive measure for us and our factories," LeBretton said. "We spent millions in machinery equipment and training and trying to get the programme moving along. We're in the second design of a Berry-compliant shoe. Our time and energy could have been going to something that could have bared fruit."
AAFA also reiterated a call for Administration to "fulfil its commitments" to extend the Berry Amendment to include athletic footwear, describing it as "vital" to the survival of the US textile, apparel, and footwear manufacturing industry. The Berry Amendment requires the US Department of Defense to buy products 100% made in the US.
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