A bill that would eliminate certain duties on some outdoor apparel such as water-resistant jackets and trousers imported into the US has been welcomed by groups representing US retailers, brands and importers.

The bipartisan 'US Optimal Use of Trade to Develop Outerwear and Outdoor Recreation Act of 2014' (US Outdoor Act) was introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in the Senate, as well as David Reichert (R-WA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in the House, but has not been enacted.

The outdoor industry generates $646bn in consumer spending annually and directly supports 6m jobs, Cantwell claims, adding that recreational performance apparel also has some of the highest duty rates imposed by the US government, reaching as high as 28%.

But the high tariffs have become "unnecessarily burdensome" to outdoor apparel companies now that domestic manufacturing makes up less than 1% of the total recreational apparel market.

Juanita Duggan, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), adds: "The innovative and high tech apparel being designed and produced today looks nothing like the outerwear garments that existed when these tariffs were first imposed decades ago.

"The outdoor industry has transformed itself by incorporating state-of-the-art technical construction and sustainable materials to meet the needs of consumers for higher performance product and specialised gear.

"It's time to update our tariff policy to reflect these products and the industry they cover."

The legislation proposes to:

  • Create new US Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) breakouts for both knit and woven recreational performance outerwear.
  • Change tariff rates for recreational performance outerwear to reduce or make duty-free.
  • Create a Sustainable Textile and Apparel Research (STAR) Fund to help the US textile and apparel industry maintain a leading edge in the research and development of environmentally sustainable technologies by establishing a 10-year assessment of 1.5% on the value of imports of recreational performance outerwear.