Scarpa North America President Kim Miller said he breathed a little easier Friday afternoon when he learned the Obama administration lifted its opposition to outdoor industry duty suspension bills, set to expire Jan. 1.
The administration lifted its opposition to eight existing bills, all set to expire in 2013. These Miscellaneous Tariff Bills temporarily reduce or suspend duties on imported products to keep prices competitive. Without the renewal of these bills, the price of some specialty footwear manufactured overseas was expected to increase by as much as 38 percent.
The tariffs affect technical footwear, including waterproof and breathable footwear, trail running shoes and rubber-soled boots, said OIA President Frank Hugelmeyer. Many of these products are created by companies headquartered in the U.S., but are manufactured overseas.
OIA trade policy director Alex Boian called the administration's reversal a "major victory" for the industry, but Boian added the administration did not change its position on 10 new MTBs, which include a separate category of leather waterproof and breathable footwear. Boian said the OIA will continue pushing for these bills.
Scarpa's Miller and other outdoor industry officials sent emails and called Colorado representatives last week hoping to sway the administration's position on the tariffs.
Their efforts paid off, Miller said.
"It's gratifying to actually make an effort on an important topic and have somebody listen," Miller said. "The world is full of a lot of noise these days and to actually have a process like that happen and have it be responded to was really amazing. It made my weekend and it certainly made my Monday."
Miller said previously that if the bills weren't re-enacted, Boulder-based Scarpa would drop products and increase prices. On Monday, Miller said he was ecstatic that he wouldn't have to contact retailers with bad news about price increases or dropped products.
La Sportiva North America President Jonathan Lantz said he wasn't surprised when he heard the administration's decision Friday, but added that his mind was more at ease.
Lantz said previously that Boulder-based La Sportiva already has set its prices for the first six months of 2013, and would have taken a hit without the bills.
"It didn't make any sense," Lantz said of the administration's decision to oppose the bills on Nov. 16. "I saw (the reversal) coming."
Boian said the OIA was notified of the administration's reversal early Friday morning when Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell's office, sponsor of the eight bills, contacted the association.
The reversal was a "direct result of a groundswell of grassroots activity," Boian said.
"I've been in the industry for nine years and I've never see anything like this where the industry coalesced so quickly and was able to turn the tide through a unified voice," he said. "The results are huge. The administration heard our case, understood what the industry was saying and thankfully reversed their position."
He emphasized that the duty suspensions will not have a negative impact on American jobs. Boian said technical specialty footwear products affected by the tariffs are not made in the U.S., which does not have the capability to manufacture these products.
Boian said the OIA consults with American footwear manufacturers "constantly" to ensure they are satisfied with footwear legislation and the association's position.
"We constantly re-evaluate U.S. capabilities in manufacturing," he said. "As soon as there is capability for these products to be made in the U.S., we will not oppose tariffs. We feel confident there's no harm to U.S. manufacturers."
Boian added that OIA has pushed for the government to make investments in high-tech manufacturing so that technical specialty footwear production can move to the U.S.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.