Domestic Footwear Group To Stay Neutral On TPP; New Balance Silent

Domestic Footwear Group To Stay Neutral On TPP; New Balance Silent

In the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Obama administration was able to meet enough demands of the Rubber and Plastic Footwear Manufacturers of America (RPFMA) on market access and rules of origin that the group, which includes New Balance, will not actively oppose its congressional approval.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative did so by securing 12-year tariff phaseouts for 12 types of footwear from Vietnam that had been identified as the most sensitive by U.S. manufacturers. It also secured a rule of origin for footwear that is slightly more restrictive than the one included in the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“We committed to the USTR that, if they made this deal, we would be neutral,” Marc Fleischaker, trade counsel to RPFMA, said in a Nov. 18 interview with Inside U.S. Trade. “We’re not in a position to either support or oppose it.”

“We appreciate the consideration that USTR gave to our views, but it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, so … on balance we’re neutral,” he added. He said that RPFMA views some of the U.S. concessions as going too far.

RPFMA is one of two U.S. footwear industry groups that have already taken a formal position on the TPP. The other is the Footwear Distributors and Retailers Association (FDRA), which represents importers and retailers such as Nike and has publicly endorsed the agreement.

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