SFIA Presses Congress to Intervene as Rail Strike Looms

Washington, D.C. (November 28, 2022): As a rail strike looms, SFIA is pressing Congress to intervene. The Rail unions negotiated a contract in September to avoid a potential strike. With four of the rail unions now rejecting the contract, a rail strike could begin as early as December 9, 2022, when the cooling-off period ends.

Rail unions will tip their hand with moves prior to a strike via notifications on hazardous shipments (4-days notice), steps to limit congestion and impact at rail yards (2-3 days notice), holding of containers at customer locations (2-days notice), and cancelation/consolidation of trains (1-day notice).

Congress can intervene under the Railway Labor Act to extend the cooling-off period or implement Presidential Emergency Board recommendations to keep rails running. SFIA joined over 400 Trade Associations on a letter to Congress urging them to intervene in the strike to avoid any labor disruptions to the fragile supply chains. SFIA will continue to press for Congressional intervention in the dispute to ensure reliable supply chains.

Click here to read the full letter.

For more information or for questions, please contact Bill Sells, SVP, Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

As required by law, the USTR is reviewing Section 301 Tariffs on products imported from China.  As part of the process, USTR is seeking comments from interested parties on:

  1. The effectiveness of the tariffs in achieving the goals of the trade action
  2. Other actions or modifications that could be taken that would be more effective
  3. The effects on various aspects of the U.S. economy.

Comments will be accepted beginning on November 15, 2022 and the comment portal will close on January 17, 2023.  The Federal Register notice on Section 301 tariff comments can be found here and USTR posted questions for the docket to provide guidance on Section 301 comment submissions.

Quick Background

Since former President Trump announced tariffs on Chinese imports in 2017, more than $300 billion in imports have been impacted.  The Exclusion process to remove products from the tariff list was seriously flawed.  An inspector general investigation found USTR did not offer explanations and justifications for denying exclusions for almost all consumer goods on List 3 & 4A.  As a result, Section 301 tariffs have led to a quadrupling of the trade-weighted average tariff rate Americans pay for Chinese imports. USTR has promised a more transparent and consistent exclusion process but has been very slow in announcing it.  The comments will guide USTR on Section 301 tariffs going forward.

Washington, D.C. (October 17, 2022) – The USTR announced the re-opening of the portal for manufacturers to submit comments on Section 301 Tariffs on Chinese imports.  

Click here to learn more about what this means.

The USTR is accepting comments on Section 301 Tariffs until January 17, 2023.  Please see the Federal Register notice on submission of Section 301 Tariff comments for additional information.  SFIA will offer members the opportunity to file exclusion petitions should a new exclusion process be announced.

For more information, please contact Bill Sells, SVP, Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

Washington, D.C.: October 4, 2022 – Today, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) joined 170 trade associations representing American business interests on a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Tai, requesting the renewal of expiring China exclusions and the creation of a robust exclusion process.

The letter shares that more than $155 billion in tariffs have been assessed on Chinese imports since the initiation of Section 301 tariffs. Studies have found the tariffs have not punished China, and the increased cost from it is largely passed on to consumers, adding to U.S. inflation concerns. Considering the supply chain challenges impacting product availability, these punitive tariffs only add to product costs at a time when the U.S. needs to be reducing them. The next major action on Section 301 Tariffs comes in November with many existing tariff exclusions scheduled to expire.

The group asks for an immediate extension of the expiring tariff relief and the opening of a more transparent, comprehensive exclusion process.

Click here to view the letter.

For more information, please contact Bill Sells, SVP Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

July 25, 2022

The grand plan was to attach trade measures to a bill intended to ease the semiconductor shortage, using manufacturing subsidies and tax credits to increase domestic production. Congress could kill two birds with one stone – help the struggling domestic semiconductor industry and provide badly needed tariff relief to lower consumer costs. In the end, Congress kicked tariff relief down the road and will vote on just the semiconductor bill this week. Legislation to renew the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), re-authorize the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, and re-open a transparent Section 301 exclusion process for Chinese imports will have to wait… again. All three tariff relief measures expired at the end of 2020 and have been awaiting Congressional action ever since.

Disagreements over human rights, environmental standards, and other issues slowed negotiations and ultimately led to Congress dropping the tariff relief provisions from the semiconductor bill. The final passage of a trimmed-down semiconductor manufacturing and science-focused economic competitiveness package is expected this week. The Tariff Relief measures will now be taken up in the fall. Complicating matters further, Democrats have renewed their push to pass a slimmed-down ‘Build Back Better’ package using Reconciliation to avoid the 60-vote requirement in the Senate. Reconciliation allows Democrats to move stalled portions of President Biden’s agenda through Congress with no Republican support. Republicans are not happy about the Democrats’ use of Reconciliation to approve their policy priorities and separating semiconductors from trade bills, but remain committed to renewing tariff relief programs. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, made clear his desire to renew MTB and GSP:

Brady said he would continue talking with Democrats about how to advance trade provisions left out of the final chips bill, particularly the Generalized System of Preferences and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, two tariff exemption programs that have been expired for months. But there won’t be an agreement on Trade Adjustment Assistance, an aid program for victims of outsourcing, without Trade Promotion Authority to open new markets, he said.

With Congress set to vote on the semiconductor chip innovation and competitiveness bill this week, the negotiations to resolve differences on the MTB, GSP, China Exclusions, and other trade matters will continue through August. SFIA remains dedicated to securing tariff relief for member products and will continue to press Congress to get the job done.

For more information, please contact Bill Sells, SVP Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

Professional Sports Leagues Join Together to Support Legislation to Reduce Cost of Sports and Activity  

WASHINGTON, DC (June 29, 2022) – The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) applauds the commissioners from the top four professional sports leagues for their powerful call to Congress to pass the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act in 2022. The letter, sent to Congress in May, addressed declining physical health trends of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in youth, and urged Congress to take action to reduce the cost barriers associated with sports and activity.

The PHIT Act would lower costs for families and individuals involved with youth sports, outdoor recreation, and fitness activities by expanding the eligibility of pre-tax savings accounts to pay for physical activity expenses such as youth sports fees, training, and health clubs. The letter was signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“It is fantastic to see the leaders of our biggest professional sports leagues band together to lead a charge to improve youth health and wellness,” said Tom Cove, President & CEO, SFIA. “The PHIT legislation will make sports and fitness more affordable and accessible, which will encourage participation and is exactly what families need coming out of the pandemic.”

The commissioners expressed concerns around cost barriers to physical activity causing negative impacts on young people including mental health distress and rising obesity rates. In the letter, the commissioners highlighted the proven connection between physical activity and improved health outcomes and called on Congress to encourage participation in sports, fitness, and recreation by passing the PHIT Act.

“Especially as Americans struggle with rising costs of gas and groceries, we know families are forced to make difficult economic choices every day. We applaud the commissioners for stepping up at this critical time to support legislation that will reduce out-of-pocket costs and get more kids back on the field, court, and rink,” says Cove.

To read a copy of the letter sent to Congress on behalf of the NHL, NBA, NHL, and MLB commissioners, please click here..

For questions regarding the PHIT Act, please contact Bill Sells, SVP Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

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ABOUT SFIA: The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products and fitness industry. SFIA seeks to promote sports and fitness participation, as well as industry vitality through research, thought leadership, public affairs, industry affairs, and member services. For more information, please visit sfia.org.

WASHINGTON, DC (June 28, 2022) – The use of forced labor in consumer goods is unacceptable, and the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) is proud to have supported the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) prior to its enactment. SFIA applauds the initiation of Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) seizures of imports shown to use forced labor in the supply chain.

“There is no tolerance of forced labor in supply chains for sports and fitness products,” said Tom Cove, President & CEO, SFIA. “This is an important step in the fight to end the use of forced labor in the manufacturing of products and their inputs.”  

In response to the use of forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, Congress passed the UFLPA and the President signed it into law on December 21, 2021. The new law went into effect on June 21, 2022, to allow time for manufacturers to ensure their products did not have forced labor in the supply chains. CBP will seize imports shown to have violated the new law, and the importer must prove that no forced labor was used in the production of the good or any of its inputs.

SFIA members have taken internal steps to root out forced labor in their supply chains and remain dedicated to ending the use of forced labor. Our members look forward to providing consumers with fair labor, active lifestyle products for improved health, and better quality of life.

“Of course, the current challenges facing our national economy could create headwinds,” Cove added. “The global supply chain is not yet fixed, and we are monitoring how inflation may affect consumer behavior in the future.”

For questions on the new forced labor law, please contact Bill Sells, SVP Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

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ABOUT SFIA: The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products and fitness industry. SFIA seeks to promote sports and fitness participation, as well as industry vitality through research, thought leadership, public affairs, industry affairs, and member services. For more information, please visit sfia.org.

Washington, D.C. (June 22, 2022) – Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Act in December, and President Biden signed it into law right before Christmas. Importers were given six months to review supply chains and adjust to comply with the new law – banning products made with forced labor or containing inputs from forced labor.

CBP provided guidance last week on the enforcement of the new law, but for many importers, the new rules create challenges in getting products to market due to the difficulty in determining the source of all inputs.

This recent article in the Seattle Times lays out the situation and impact on consumers and offers some insight into industry actions as a result of the new law.

For more information, please contact Bill Sells, SVP Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

Washington, D.C. (June 21, 2022) – In the past two weeks, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced initiatives to help with supply chains and the President signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA), to update U.S. ocean shipping policies; the first major overhaul of U.S. shipping laws in 24 years. While neither action will resolve the supply chain/shipping issues faced by importers quickly or completely, combined, they will help protect against supply chain disruptions in the future and provide greater transparency on shipper pricing and policies.   

The Federal Maritime Commission adopted a trio of initiatives the Commission will pursue to facilitate the movement of commerce:

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act gives the FMC additional resources to execute its mission through:

The FMC is confident the new authority, additional compliance enforcement, and greater transparency will help facilitate the free flow of commerce in the future.  While this will help supply chains once products are on the water, the issues surrounding COVID in China continue to disrupt commerce and the U.S. has little recourse for supply chains in China during COVID lockdowns.

For more information, please contact Bill Sells, SVP Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

SILVER SPRING, MD (June 16, 2022) – In response to the use of forced labor, especially in the Xianjing province of China, Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) to block the importation of consumer goods made with or containing inputs produced with Forced Labor. In recognition of the challenges in identifying the source of every input, Congress set a June 21 implementation date to give importers six months to prepare – but CBP offered no guidance until now.  On June 15, six days before implantation of new Forced Labor laws, CBP issued Operational Guidance on the Act for importers.   

The Operational Guidance includes:   

The full CBP guidance on the enforcement of UFLPA can be found here.

SFIA thanks Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg for their contributions to this article.

For more information, please contact Bill Sells, SVP Government Relations & Public Affairs, at [email protected].

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