More than 170 of the nation’s largest footwear companies have sent a clear message to the White House — the latest tariffs proposed against China will burn a hole in Americans’ soles.
The shoe sellers signed a letter to the White House warning of the “catastrophic” effects Trump’s proposed 25 percent tariffs would have on consumers, companies and the U.S. economy.
President Donald Trump last week proposed the higher tariffs against shoe imports as part of a broader package of restrictions on $300 billion in Chinese goods, including many consumer items.
The United States already has imposed tariffs — a type of import tax — on $250 billion in Chinese products. But consumer products were largely shielded from those penalties.
Consumers ultimately absorb the tariffs in the form of higher retail prices, the shoe companies said.
Monday’s letter included signatures from powerhouses such as Nike, Adidas, Foot Locker, Ugg, Crocs, Steve Madden, Skechers and Converse.
“We can assure you that any increase in the cost of importing shoes has a direct impact on the American footwear consumer,” the letter said. “It is an unavoidable fact that, as prices go up at the border due to transportation costs, labor rate increases or additional duties, the consumer pays more for the product.”
Economists and other business groups contend that tariffs are a tax on Americans that comes due to the U.S. companies that import foreign goods. Trump has countered that imposing tariffs incentivizes companies to move production back to the United States.
He has also said it is the only way to get Beijing’s attention as he seeks leverage in his trade fight.
The shoe industry is deeply entrenched in China. In their letter, footwear companies warned that they can’t “simply move factories to adjust to these changes.”
Footwear is one of the nation’s most heavily imported products, with nearly all shoes manufactured outside the United States. Nearly three-quarters of those imports come from China, the American Apparel and Footwear Association said last year.
The footwear industry’s trade association, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, estimates that the proposed tariffs would add $7 billion in additional costs for customers each year, the letter said.
That’s on top of the existing $3 billion a year in tariffs paid by the shoe industry, thanks to legislation from 1930 that was intended to protect U.S. manufacturing during the Great Depression.
Last summer, Trump levied tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. The White House followed up with a threat to extend the tariffs to all $500 billion worth of imports from China, which put the shoe industry on high alert.
Nike, Saucony and Under Armour previously had written to the White House, saying that shoe tariffs would lead to higher costs for consumers and fewer American jobs.
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“Any action taken to increase duties on Chinese footwear will have an immediate and long-lasting effect on American individuals and families,” the companies wrote that March.