FDRA Honors Friends on the Hill

Footwear executives feted their allies on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

The Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America on Tuesday held the inaugural FDRA Friend of the Footwear Industry Awards in Washington, D.C., to honor Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) for supporting the Affordable Footwear Act.

Speaking to Footwear News on the phone, FDRA President Matt Priest said Camp “is an important party equation [as the] chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which gives jurisdiction for most of the legislation that we work on.”

Cantwell was honored for “the good work she’s done on behalf of the entire footwear industry because we will soon be reintroducing the bill for this [session of] Congress and she will be the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill,” added Priest.

The bill, first introduced in 2007, aims to eliminate duties on 40 percent of all footwear imports and, in doing so, lower costs for the American consumer.

“The average import duty on goods entering the U.S. is 1.4 percent, but footwear duties are upwards of 70 percent,” said Priest. “It’s an antiquated duty structure put in place in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and, in the light of current global challenges and cost increases that are reverberating throughout the supply chain, needs to be eliminated.”

The good news is, said Priest, the bill is “a great, popular proposal and we have broad, bipartisan support [for it].”

The two-day awards event, which Priest said he hopes will become an annual affair, also connected FDRA members on Wednesday with various members of Congress and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whom President Obama recently nominated to replace Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador to China.

Priest said talks with Locke revolved around how to enhance market access for FDRA members in China, so companies can work out ways to sell product to the Chinese consumer base, as well as continue manufacturing there.

“It was an extremely productive round of talks, and we look forward to having a better event next year,” he added.

Shoe execs in attendance included Blake Krueger, president, chairman and CEO of Wolverine World Wide Inc. and chairman of FDRA; Matt Rubel, president and CEO of Collective Brands Inc.; and Bill Snowden Jr., SVP of The Topline Corp.

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