Outdoor footwear retailers and vendors got mixed news Thursday when the House Ways & Means Committee posted a proposed Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) that would restore duty relief on trail runners and other outdoor products retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, but at higher rates than stipulated in the bill that expired last year.


Congress had failed to renew the MTB last year, causing tariffs on rapidly growing categories of waterproof/breathable footwear, including some trail runners, to rise to the maximum 37.5%. Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and the American Apparel and Footwear Association have been lobbying Congress ever since to renew the legislation, which is typically renewed every three years.


The good news is that the House Ways and Means Committee resumed the MTB process Thursday by posting the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill on its website for public review. All MTBs, whether new or extensions, will expire Dec. 31, 2012 and are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010.


The bad news is that while the bill renews duty relief for footwear covered under OIA’s 2006 MTB bill, it does so at higher rates than were in effect through 2009. For instance, the new temporary duty rate for men’s footwear imported under HTS Code 9902.23.77/6402.99.33 goes from zero to 27.6%. It also fails to extend duty relief to other related footwear advocated by OIA in 2009.


In a trade alert sent to some OIA members, OIA Director of Trade Policy Alex Boian said it was highly unlikely Congress would move on the bill before the November elections. He also said that the higher duties recommended on outdoor footwear demonstrate the need to pass the Affordable Footwear Act, which would permanently eliminated tariffs on hundreds of types of footwear that have been roundly criticized as a regressive and anachronistic tax on U.S. consumers.