Footwear Makers’ Rift Over Tariffs Reflects Lingering Issues
By Ben Otto, Anh Thu Nguyen
NUSA DUA, Indonesia—A showdown between the footwear makers Nike and New Balance embodies the hard decisions facing the U.S. and 11 other countries this weekend as they try to nail down a sweeping new Asia-Pacific trade pact.
Negotiators meeting on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia, are confronting some of the last but most-sensitive issues in a proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would one be one of the world’s largest free-trade agreements if completed.
Negotiators say that none of the remaining sticking points should stand in the way of the ambitious goal of concluding the talks this year. But as the long-stalled Doha round of global trade talks illustrates, nothing quite bogs down trade deals like disagreements that date back decades.
“The meeting in Bali begins the TPP endgame process in earnest,” said Matt Priest, president of Washington-based Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.
At the heart of the sneaker dispute are U.S. tariffs on footwear that date back to the 1960s. Businesses in Vietnam, the world’s No. 2 shoemaker after China, say they average about 10% on the type of shoes Vietnam exports to the U.S., but can go much higher.