The CEO of the Largest Footwear Trade Association Says He’s in a ‘Trump-pression’

“I’m going to be a total buzz kill for the optimism we’ve heard so far here.”

That’s how Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, kicked off his presentation today at the FN CEO Summit in Miami.

The Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist said he wished he could focus on pressing topics such as consumer behavior, innovation and Gen Z. Instead, Priest — and the industry — have been consumed with their battle against the border adjustment tax (BAT) proposal.

“I’m going to be a little political, and we are an apolitical organization except when it comes to trade,” said Priest. He described the uncertainty around the controversial BAT proposal, which would raise taxes on imports by 2o percent and dramatically drive up the cost of shoes in the U.S. market. The House of Representatives is trying to push the BAT through as part of President Donald Trump’s agenda.

That is what’s causing Priest to diagnose himself with “Trump-pression.” “We are trying to figure what this guy is going to do,” said Priest, who spent a decade working to advance the pro-trade Trans Pacific Partnership, which Trump immediately trashed as soon as he took office.

“We have an administration who hates China and hates trade,” Priest lamented. “I haven’t seen an issue jazz up the industry like this one.”

While Priest and his team are busy meeting with congressional officials to try to squash the BAT, he encouraged footwear players to take immediate action by going on the FDRA website here and submitting a letter to Congress. “You are the game changers,” he told the crowd.

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