The footwear industry is sending a powerful message after President Donald Trump suggested that Canadians are illegally transporting shoes purchased in the United States across the border into Canada to avoid tariffs.
At the National Federation of Independent Business’ 75th anniversary event, the president claimed that Canada’s levies are “so high” that when it comes to buying footwear, Canadians have to “smuggle them in.”
“They buy shoes, and they wear them. They scuff them up to make them sound old, look old,” Trump said, with journalists and reporters taking to social media to express their confusion at the president’s allegation.
In response, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America issued a strongly worded statement, writing on behalf of the American footwear industry: “We welcome anyone from anywhere to come and purchase shoes in America. It helps both our brands and retailers grow. Period,” said Matt Priest, the trade association’s president and CEO. “We don’t care where they wear them, and if they get scuffed up, all the better so we can sell them more.”
Separately, the FDRA sent out a tweet to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, welcoming “you and all Canadians to come buy shoes in America.”
Priest, who today shared his opposition to Trump’s recent decision to impose a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, added: “The president seems misinformed about footwear trade. Consumers buying shoes in America already pay a very high tariff, upwards of 37.5 percent and 67.5 percent. NAFTA is not treating footwear consumers in America unfairly; the American government itself has not lowered footwear duties in a meaningful way in over 80 years.”
In March, 17 organizations from the fashion and soft-goods industries penned a joint letter reiterating that the U.S. already imposes high border taxes on many consumer products.
“If the president is concerned about treating American footwear companies and consumers fairly, then he should have signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership to lower footwear costs in America,” Priest explained. “Canada signed the TPP and will eventually get duty-free shoes from Vietnam, a major sourcing hub, where American brands will ship directly into Canada duty-free. Canadians have no reason to ‘smuggle’ their shoes because their government is already helping lower their costs through proper trade deals.”
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