Leading US travel goods companies, including Coach, VF Corp and Timberland, are continuing to call for legislation that would make US imports of items such as handbags, luggage and backpacks eligible for duty-free benefits.

The GSP Update for Production Diversification and Trade Enhancement (UPDATE) Act has already been introduced in the House and Senate, and industry groups last week sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways & Means Committee urging for it to be passed.

The proposed amendment to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme would allow travel goods to be considered under the annual GSP review process, which provides duty free benefits for those products deemed non-import sensitive.

Other companies backing the move include American Eagle Outfitters, TellaS Ltd/Luen Thai USA, and LF USA/LF Europe.

The business leaders say 99% of all travel goods are imported, and most face a 15-20% tariff. 

If the GSP programme was amended to include travel goods items, new production opportunities would open in developing GSP-eligible countries, including the Philippines, Brazil, Cambodia, and Thailand, they say.

"This would provide alternatives to China for our industry and our consumers, and support US travel goods companies and the tens of thousands of American jobs."

In addition, they argue that providing duty-free benefits for GSP production could spur foreign investment and sourcing from developing countries that are key strategic allies of the US. "This is exactly what the GSP programme was designed to accomplish."

Excluding certain specific types of travel goods still made in the US from GSP eligibility would also protect the few remaining domestic manufacturers.