The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) said it is aggressively supporting the extension of duty suspension bills on basketballs and volleyballs. If the U.S. Congress approves tariff relief legislation by year's end that includes the SGMA ball bills, duty suspensions will be extended through 2011. 

In 2006, Congress temporarily suspended duties on basketballs and volleyballs for three years effective January 1, 2007.  The duty suspensions are scheduled to expire at midnight on December 31, 2009.

According to SGMA, there are two issues which must be resolved in order for the duty suspension bills to be included in a broad tariff bill.  First, is there domestic production of volleyballs and basketballs?  Second, will the total revenue loss to the Treasury from any duty relief on any of the balls exceed $500,000?

“It's important that SGMA succeeds in getting Congress to pass this duty relief because these products are no longer manufactured in the United States,” said Bill Sells, SGMA's vice president of government relations.  “With no domestic production of volleyballs and basketballs, any duty collected would result in a higher retail prices for the consumer, which is something our economy does not need.”

Back on October 29, four bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate to extend the ball duty suspensions through 2011.  The four bills were S.2333 (for volleyballs), S.2334 (for leather basketballs), S.2335 (for basketballs not made of rubber or leather), and S.2446 (for rubber basketballs).  All of the bills have bi-partisan support from four U.S. Senators – John Kerry (D-MA), Paul Kirk (D-MA), Jim Bunning (R-KY), and John Ensign (R-NV).

It is expected that these four duty relief bills will be included in the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) that Congress is hoping to pass before leaving Washington, D.C. for the upcoming holidays.

On November 2, the Senate Finance Committee requested public comments on those four duty relief bills.  SGMA submitted a “Statement of Support” to the Committee for each ball bill.

In early December, the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the International Trade Administration (ITA) contacted SGMA for information regarding domestic production on volleyballs and basketballs.  The Senate is currently reviewing all public comments and a report from the ITC/ITA to verify there is no domestic production of volleyballs and basketballs

“At this point in time, it is best if the House and the Senate agree on the items in a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill and each pass identical MTBs to avoid the need for a conference to reconcile any differences,” said Sells.  “Extensions of existing duty relief will be easiest to pass and will avoid the problems created by reinstatement of duties.  With the Senate in full-scale debate on health care reform, the biggest concern is running out of time before the suspensions expire.”