The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has welcomed the passage of the America Competes Act which it says will protect consumers from dangerous counterfeits and address the worsening shipping crisis.

Included within the America Competes Act is the Shop Safe Act, Inform Consumers Act, Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA), and the retroactive renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB),

Last month the AAFA and Footwear Retailers and Distributors of America were among 12 trade organisations calling on Congress for the swift implementation of legislation – specifically the Shop Safe Act and the Inform Consumers Act.

“The America Competes Act contains many essential provisions necessary for the competitiveness of the US apparel and footwear industry, and we are pleased to see the bill pass the House,” said Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the AAFA.

“This legislation meets several critical needs – from stopping the sale of dangerous counterfeit apparel, footwear, and accessories to protect the health and safety of consumers, to preventing predatory practices that have exacerbated the shipping crisis, to delivering critical tariff relief for the American companies facing fast rising costs and inflationary pressures because of the shipping crisis and the previous administration’s ongoing trade war.

“Still, there are areas where this legislation should be improved during conference between the Senate and the House. We look forward to working with both houses and Congressional leadership to make smart modifications that promote economic growth – particularly with regards to GSP, MTB, the ongoing collection of Section 301 tariffs, and the de minimis program. The goal of this title – particularly while we are in an inflationary cycle and facing unrelenting transportation cost pressures – should be to reduce crushing tariffs that make everyday essentials like clothes, shoes, and travel goods more expensive. With these modifications, the legislation will be a trifecta victory – for American consumers, American workers, and American businesses.”

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AAFA has long supported the Shop Safe and Inform Consumers Act, which are designed to reduce the spread of counterfeit products. Counterfeit products not only undermine American intellectual property, but can also put consumers in contact with products that do not meet health and safety requirements. Shop Safe would establish trademark liability for e-commerce platforms when a third-party sells a counterfeit product that poses a health and safety risk, while Inform would increase seller transparency by requiring the collection of data and vetting of third-party sellers. Both are critical consumer and IP protections to support American innovation, jobs, and competitiveness. Moreover, these measures would make it harder for nefarious criminal organizations to profit from illicit actions, improving national security. 

The addition of OSRA meets a demand by AAFA for additional protection from predatory carrier practices. The bill would require the Federal Maritime Commission to establish and enforce rules regarding minimum service requirements for carriers, respond to breaches of contracts, and address excessive and unjust detention and demurrage fees. As the apparel and footwear industry has experienced skyrocketing transportation costs due to the shipping crisis, driving up prices and inflation, OSRA would go a long way to addressing the predatory practices the industry has suffered during the past year.

Finally, the retroactive renewal of GSP and MTB would provide American businesses with crucial tariff relief. GSP allows companies to import certain products from developing countries that meet specific requirements established by the U.S. government. Meanwhile, MTB removes tariffs on key products that cannot be sourced domestically. As the Section 301 tariffs remain on many of the industry’s products, these programs provide American companies with the ability to reduce costs elsewhere.