Even as many American industries condemn the escalating trade war with China, the textile sector, an integral part of the footwear supply chain, has come out in staunch support of it.
After President Donald Trump announced additional tariffs on a proposed $200 billion of Chinese imports, the National Council of Textile Organizations applauded the move as a necessary step to protect American manufacturing and even pushed for further duties on consumer goods.
The domestic textile industry has shrunk dramatically in the nearly two decades since the U.S. opened up trade with China, dropping from 1.13 million workers in 1999 to less than 350,000 today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most end products (including footwear and apparel) so far have been spared from the list of goods subject to additional tariffs — largely because the government wants to avoid consumers’ seeing an immediate impact at the cash register — but NCTO president and CEO Auggie Tantillo has argued against this tactic, saying the tariffs “would be far more effective if Chinese apparel and sewn non-apparel end products were included in the … list because that would benefit the entire U.S. textile and apparel supply chain.”
The U.S. footwear industry would be among the sectors hardest-hit by additional tariffs, as more than 71 percent of the shoes imported by U.S. come from China, and the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America has joined other industry organizations in rejecting the intensifying battle with China.
“It’s very difficult to see how this doesn’t negatively impact all Americans of every walk of life,” FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest told FN when the latest round of tariffs were announced. “The president claimed that trade wars are easy to win, but what our industry has always known is coming true: Trade wars are costly, unnecessary and do harm to the American economy.”
The NCTO has little sympathy for these pleas, however. “To the retailing and importing community, guess what? This is what President Trump campaigned on,” Lloyd Wood, the organization’s director of public affairs, told Bloomberg. “They knew this was coming. If you chose to keep all your eggs in the China basket, that’s a risk you are knowingly taking.”