The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will hold a hearing on October 18 on providing duty-free treatment for travel goods, including sports bags and backpacks, under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program to additional eligible countries. Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has already requested to appear at the new hearing.

Due to the efforts of OIA and others, the product scope of what is GSP-eligible was expanded last year to include certain travel goods, including backpacks, sports and travel bags and other luggage. OIA signed four petitions to include all 28 eligible travel good Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) lines in the GSP program, and testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) and USTR in support of the initiative.

Last year, President Obama signed legislation renewing and expanding the GSP program that provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for over 100 developing countries for approved items.

The USTR-approved duty-free treatment began on July 1, 2016, for only a limited number of GSP countries, including Least Developed Beneficiary Developing Countries (LDBDCs) and African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) countries. A decision on adding other GSP countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines was deferred indefinitely.

Following the July 1 announcement, OIA released a statement expressing disappointment with the decision and sent a multi-association letter urging the administration to change course and approve all 28 lines for all GSP countries.

Requests to appear at the USTR hearing announced today are due by October 4. Post-hearing comments may be submitted until November 1. A final decision on adding additional countries to the GSP travel goods program is expected by January before the president leaves office.