Baltimore’s Key Bridge Clean-Up Initiated; Limited Passage for Smaller Vessels but Port Remains Closed to Cargo Ships

Washington, D.C. (April 3, 2024): As shipping companies and manufacturers scramble to mitigate the supply chain issues resulting from the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, blocking the entrance to the Baltimore Harbour, the CBP, and the United Command overseeing the response have provided information to help manufacturers, importers/exporters, and shippers.

The CBP issued an update on the Baltimore Port Closure due to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge offering guidance on alternative Port options, cargo stranded in Baltimore Port, and unloading export cargo from ships in Baltimore Port. A “United Command” website has been created to provide the latest information on the response and the impact on the Port to aid interested parties in navigating the challenges presented by the bridge collapse.

President Biden has committed Federal Government resources and funding for the removal of the debris and reconstruction of the Key Bridge. Congress needs to waive the requirement that the State cover a portion of the expense and approve the Federal Government paying 100 percent of the costs. Some in Congress have raised concerns about the Federal Government covering the entire project, but there is enough support to re-open this major East Coast Port quickly to pass legislation funding the clean-up/reconstruction of the bridge.

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

2024 Quarter 1 Recap

While election-year politics hang over Congress, there is hope for tariff relief & health promotion policies. With the Presidential race getting the headlines, Congress navigates the choppy waters of an election year to find common ground. Divisions in Congress may get all the attention, but there are Members committed to finding bipartisan solutions, however, the path to success is narrow in a highly contentious election year.

If 2023 is any indication of what to expect in 2024 it will be a challenge, as only 27 bills were signed into law last year and 2024 will be more volatile due to the Presidential election. Despite the challenges presented by Presidential election year politics, SFIA policy priorities cut across party lines.

With the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, Congress has moved on to recovery. The economy remains sluggish and consumer prices continue to rise. SFIA advocacy has targeted policies to lower consumer costs, create more resilient supply chains, protect IPR, and increase participation in sports and fitness.

SFIA has focused much of its efforts on legislation to:

INCREASE PARTICIPATION

Capture the Economic Impact of Youth Sports

Participation in team sports continues to rise and the economic footprint of youth sports is large and growing. SFIA is working with Congress to launch an annual BEA study on the economic impact of youth sports to add to our messaging in promoting youth sports policies. 

The gross economic output of Outdoor Recreation was $1.1 trillion in 2022, according to an annual study performed by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Outdoor recreation is not in every community throughout the U.S., but youth sports are, and we want to capture that information. 

Youth sports are far more than registration fees and field/court/rink rentals; referees and administrative staff at facilities and leagues, coaches, clinics, camps, and sports equipment sales all directly contribute to the youth sports economy – but so does development around sports facilities. Tournaments fill hotel rooms and generate revenue in the community. Fuel stations, grocery and convenience stores, fast food, and chain pharmacies pop up around facilities, and concessions and sports shops in the facility create jobs and contribute to the local economy. 

The BEA Youth Sports Economic Impact study will not be available until 2026 at the earliest. 

Promote Healthy Lifestyles Via Increased Activity and Access to Facilities

The pandemic highlighted the mental and physical health benefits of physical activity, and communities with children not able to participate on teams due to lack of sports facilities had worse outcomes. Ensuring greater access to facilities will lead to better health and lower future U.S. outlays to treat preventable chronic conditions and mental health problems.

SFIA is working with Congress to increase investments in youth sports infrastructure. Legislation to expand the use of Economic Development Assistance (EDA) funds to include youth sports infrastructure has bipartisan leadership in the House. SFIA is seeking a Republican to join our Democratic Senate lead.

Under the bill, urban and rural communities with a high incidence of substance abuse or violent crime, and lacking sports facilities, would be targeted for new investments in sports and recreation infrastructure. The Secretary of Education would award EDA grants; with 40 percent going to schools and the balance split between non-profits, cities/political subdivisions, and economic development districts.

SFIA has launched a state-of-the-art Sports & Recreation Project Database to give our members advanced notice of new investments in Sports & Recreation Infrastructure. The database uses AI to review up to 400,000 pages of minutes and agendas weekly from local government, council, committee, and board meetings. The database captures the information at the earliest stage of the project, often before the RFP is written, giving SFIA members a competitive advantage.

The Sports and Recreation Project database is searchable by sport, product, facility type, state, and date for customized reports that focus on projects with the most relevance to a business. Database users will receive daily e-mails on new investments to provide the latest info and keep users ahead of their competition.

New youth sports facilities will address the access barrier to youth sports, adult fitness and recreation, and the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act will lower the cost barrier. PHIT expands Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), and other pre-tax medical accounts to cover activity expenses as a form of prevention. An independent commission reviewing the U.S. Olympic Committee publicly pressed Congress to pass PHIT earlier this month.

PHIT would lower family and consumer costs for youth sports, health clubs/fitness centers, and adult recreation by allowing payment using pre-tax dollars. Allowable expenses include registrations, membership dues, subscription fees, instruction, clinics, camps, tournaments, and equipment used exclusively to participate in sports, recreation, and fitness. Apparel and footwear that can be worn casually and travel and accommodations would not be eligible for PHIT savings.

PHIT has support from more than 80 Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including 15 from the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee which has jurisdiction for the bill. PHIT Champions are seeking an appropriate legislative vehicle to attach PHIT and move it through Congress.

TARIFF RELIEF

Renew Tariff Relief to Lower the Cost of Getting Products to Market

An estimated 100 million dollars in tariff relief on industry products awaits Congressional action, two years after the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) and Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) lapsed at the end of 2020. SFIA has more than 80 MTB petitions on industry products fully vetted by the US International Trade Commission and recommended for inclusion in the MTB. MTB tariff relief is capped at $500,000 per petition for up to $40 million in tariff relief on industry products. Gloves, equipment bags, backpacks, and other sports equipment enter the U.S. duty-free if made in a GSP-eligible country, avoiding tariffs ranging from 3.0%  to 17.6%.

Environmental issues are a sticking point, but the U.S. included provisions in the USMCA trade agreement that could be adopted for MTB and GSP to address those concerns. The bigger obstacle is Democrats desire to add Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to help workers displaced by jobs moving overseas to MTB/GSP renewal legislation; Republicans counter with a demand to give the President Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to negotiate free trade agreements without Congressional interference. TAA and TPA are policy differences that can be worked on outside of MTB/GSP, but to date, these have languished in Congress and impeded progress on tariff relief.  

SFIA continues to press Congress for the renewal of these traditionally bipartisan, non-controversial tariff relief bills. A March advocacy day on Tariff Relief was well received – Congress is sympathetic and seeking a way to break the impasse to move legislation to renew GSP/MTB.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has repeatedly indicated the Section 301 Tariffs on products made in China serve a purpose and give the U.S. leverage in future trade negotiations. Ambassador Tai points to the tariffs leading to increased sourcing outside of China, including back to the U.S., but there is little evidence to support that claim. China’s failure to meet all the terms of the Phase 1 trade deal provides justification for continuing tariffs of up to 25 percent on imports, although Section 301 tariffs on most consumer goods are 7.5 percent. The Section 301 tariffs are in addition to other tariffs on imported products and inputs, putting the total tariff on many Chinese imports above 10 percent.

While it is unlikely that Section 301 Tariffs will be dropped anytime soon, SFIA has pushed for a required U.S. Trade Representative four-year review of the Chinese tariffs. The review will report on the impact of the tariffs, China’s compliance with the terms of the Phase 1 agreement, and most importantly the Section 301 Tariff Exclusion process. 

The initial USTR Exclusion process provided relief for roughly a third of requests on Lists 1 and 2, covering steel, aluminum, large consumer appliances, and industrial products, but, only five percent of Exclusion requests were approved for consumer products on Lists 3 and 4A.  A General Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Exclusion process found it to be seriously flawed and unfair. GAO recommended re-opening the exclusion process with greater transparency to ensure fair consideration of requests for relief. The USTR review will provide insight into the government’s position on reopening a more transparent exclusion process that offers SFIA members an opportunity to seek relief from China tariffs.

Supply chains

Ensure Reliable Supply Chains to Ensure Timely Delivery of Products

The reliable movement of goods from factories into the stream of commerce is critical to meeting consumer demand and limiting spikes in costs to businesses and consumers. Following the supply chain crisis from the pandemic, Congress enacted the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 to address rising fees and challenges to the timely delivery of products.

The new laws have reduced fees and led to more reliable shipments of products, but recent global conflicts have disrupted the flow of goods. Shippers have opted to avoid the Suez Canal due to hostilities off the coast of Yemen targeting ships and the longer shipping routes have disrupted the flow of commerce. It is estimated that $80 billion in cargo has been diverted due to hostilities in Red Sea shipping lanes. New routes take ships around the Cape of Good Horn and create greater reliance on West Coast Ports. The new routes have driven up shipping costs due to increased traffic at certain ports that lack the equipment necessary to process the increased volume efficiently.

SFIA requested safe and secure maritime commerce in the Red Sea in a February letter encouraging countries to commit to a multinational security initiative. Twenty-three countries are currently participating in Operation Prosperity Guardian to keep Red Sea shipping lanes safe, and the Suez Canal a viable shipping option. SFIA and other concerned parties stress the need to protect the 30 percent of global trade flowing through the Red Sea and Suez Canal from interference and attacks.   

The current labor contract for port workers from Maine to Texas expires on September 30. Negotiations are ongoing between the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMA) on a new contract to avoid any disruptions in the flow of commerce to East Coast Ports.  The ILA has set a May 17 deadline for local contracts to be agreed upon to allow for negotiations on an overall Master contract prior to the September deadline. To date, only the ports of New York/New Jersey and Baltimore have reached tentative local agreements.

ILA is seeking a more generous contract than West Coast Ports received and pointed to the 40 percent increase in wages and benefits in the Great Lakes District contract as a target. East Coast Port worker unions also object to increased automation and want exclusive port contracts for its workers. Historically, East Coast and Gulf Coast Ports have been less aggressive on strikes and slowdowns during contract negotiations due to the royalties longshoremen receive based on the tonnage of cargo processed. Any disruptions that divert cargo to the West Coast would be bad for East Coast port workers.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Combat the Theft of Intellectual Property

At the January PGA Show, the Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office identified SFIA’s U.S. Golf Manufacturers Council anti-counterfeiting program as a model for U.S. businesses seeking to curb the flow of fake products from China. The USGMC program addresses the counterfeit product issue at the root of the problem, focusing its efforts on the ground in China. USGMC identifies fake products, determines the source, and then works with local law enforcement to take down the counterfeiters, seize fake products, and close the production facility. Listings of fake products are removed from online marketplaces and websites dedicated to the sale of fake golf equipment are shut down.

Companies engaged in the production and distribution of fake golf equipment are fined and required to pay damages. Individuals are sentenced to jail time and assessed fines for golf IPR violations. Since the inception of the USGMC anti-counterfeiting program, an estimated 2,000,000 pieces of equipment have been seized. The raids have resulted in over $118,000,000 in damages awarded, more than 100 convictions, and almost $3,000,000 in fines. Only fake products containing marks and branding of the golf manufacturers paying for the program can be seized; fake golf products from non-participating golf companies are left on the factory/warehouse/distribution center floor.

With the implementation of Section 301 Tariffs on Chinese imports, companies based in China have turned to direct shipments to consumers to avoid CBP inspections and applicable tariffs. ‘De Minimis’ shipments with a value of $800 or less enter the U.S. without CBP inspection for forced labor or counterfeit products and appropriate tariffs are not collected. More than two million packages a day enter the U.S. under the De Minimis exemption and the total value of de minimis shipments has increased from $40 million in 2012 to $67 billion in 2022. Counterfeiters in China have utilized the de minimis exemption to gain access to the U.S. market without CBP inspections.

SFIA applauds Senators Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) and Rick Scott’s (R-FL) February 23rd letter to President Biden requesting he “utilize broad executive authorities to end duty-free treatment for Section 321 de minimis e-commerce shipments that are facilitating the import of illegal products, goods produced with forced labor, and other contraband to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers, workers, and communities.” SFIA supports the Import Security & Fairness Act to prohibit the use of de minimis for products shipped from non-market economies on the USTR’s priority watch list. CBP would be given additional authority to collect more information on De Minimis shipments and ban bad actors. 

REGULATION

Ensure Reasonable Regulation and Compliance with Laws

SFIA supports efforts to stem the flow of products containing illegally harvested wood from entering the stream of commerce. The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) enforces the Lacey Act to regulate the importation of plant products, including wood and other materials, to ensure compliance with U.S. policies on the source of wood in finished products.    

Importers must provide scientific name, value, quantity, and country of harvest to certify products contain no illegally harvested wood.  APHIS provides two options for filing declarations online: The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and the Lacey Act Web Governance System (LAWGS). More information and guidance on declarations can be found on the APHIS website.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyflouroakyl (PFAS) substances have been found to adversely affect health. Lower fertility, development delays, behavioral changes in children, and potentially an increased risk of certain cancers have all been linked to PFAS chemicals. PFAS substances are used in water and stain-resistant coatings found in athletic apparel and footwear, some swim products, and certain sports and fitness products.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a new rule requiring any person that manufactures (including imports) or has manufactured (including imported) PFAS or products containing PFAS chemicals in any year since January 1, 2011, to electronically report information regarding PFAS uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards.   

Any entities, including small entities, that have manufactured or imported products containing PFAS will have 18 months to report PFAS data to EPASmall manufacturers (as defined at 40 CFR 704.3) whose reporting obligations under this rule are exclusively from article imports will have 24 months to report PFAS data to EPA.

Non-compliant PFAS products warehoused in 2024 cannot be sold in the U.S. beginning January 1, 2025. 

Ten States have PFAS restrictions, with California and New York being the most aggressive. California has announced an expansion of the PFAS list of banned substances in consumer products to include Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and Perfluorononanioc acid (PFNA) to the list of banned chemicals. Proposition 65 mandates warning labels on consumer products containing certain chemicals. The new California PFAS restrictions go into effect on January 1, 2025.  New York has banned apparel with intentionally added PFAS beginning January 1, 2025, and outdoor apparel for severe wet conditions starting January 1, 2028.

SFIA members making apparel & footwear have the highest industry exposure.

For more information or for questions on SFIA public policy, please contact Bill Sells.

Washington, D.C. (February 15, 2024): A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report recommends Congress engage with the USTR to develop and implement guidelines on the grant exclusion process for tariffs applied to imports of Chinese products under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. In the coming months, USTR hopes to complete a required four-year review of the tariffs currently in place on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods. The CRS report suggests Congress “could potentially promote transparency, consistency, and proper application of standards in reviewing requests, thereby helping to ensure that the USTR carries out Section 301 objectives as prescribed by Congress.”

Lawmakers have offered legislation to amend Section 301 and explored creating or restructuring the exclusion process to make it more efficient and transparent during hearings and shared their position with the USTR. Congress has expressed interest in “recalibrating” the tariffs to align better with U.S. economic and strategic priorities, some prefer a partial removal of the tariffs on consumer goods to help U.S. companies and lower consumer costs. Others believe the tariffs provide leverage in future U.S.-China trade negotiations and should be preserved to promote domestic manufacturing and supply chain stability.

A letter from U.S. Trade Representative Tai to the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party suggests the USTR will consider other options available to make the tariffs “more strategic” while remaining sensitive to the incentives the tariffs create. Ambassador Tai pointed out that the Section 301 tariffs promoted diversity in supply chains as companies have moved out of China which helped protect them from ‘forced technology transfers’ in China.

USTR acknowledged that Chinese firms have moved some operations away from China to avoid the tariffs and that “existing rules of origin” left openings for those Chinese firms to benefit from preferential MFN tariff treatment and Free Trade Agreements, thereby avoiding Section 301 tariffs. Ambassador Tai noted the challenges presented by easy access to the U.S. market for goods from key trading partners and that the Administration will work with Congress to evaluate these challenges and address them.

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

(Friday, February 9) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) enforces the Lacey Act to regulate the importation of plant products, including wood and other materials. Products containing illegally harvested wood are subject to seizure upon entry into the U.S. and individuals importing these products can be incarcerated and subject to financial penalties.

Importers of wood products are required to file a declaration identifying the scientific name, value, quantity, and country of harvest to determine if the wood was legally harvested. Importers must provide certification on the origin of wood and third-party certification or verification cannot be used to prove the legality of timber harvested. The Lacey Act does not apply to composite wood used in fitness benches and other products.

The Lacey Act is in the final expansion stage and all imports of “plant” products, including wood products, must now be declared upon entry into the U.S. Non-compliance with the Lacey Act is a felony offense with violators subject to fines and imprisonment.

APHIS provides two options for filing declarations online: The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), and the Lacey Act Web Governance System (LAWGS). More information and guidance on declarations can be found on the APHIS website.

An individual or company can be charged with a misdemeanor offense or civil penalties for failing to exercise “due care” in determining that the wood used in products was harvested legally.   ‘Due care’ is defined as “The degree of care which a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstance.”  A 2021 violation of the Lacey Act for importing illegally harvested wood led to $200,000 in restitution to the country of origin and a fine.

The government does not have to establish any level of knowledge on the part of the person regarding the illegal nature of the product to forfeit it: civil forfeiture of illegally harvested wood products may be imposed on a strict liability basis.

APHIS is offering free training for Lacey Act compliance through the International Wood Products Association (IWPA).  More information on free Lacey Act compliance training can be found here.  

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

(Wednesday, December 20) — In our continuing effort to secure tariff relief on sporting goods and fitness products, SFIA joined almost 200 business organizations asking Congress to urge USTR to immediately conclude the required four-year review of the Section 301 Tariffs. The review has taken more than 18 months, and the four-year deadline has passed to submit their findings to Congress. Business interests also expressed concern over the lack of a transparent exclusion process as recommended by the General Accountability Office (GAO) after its investigation found the initial exclusion process to be seriously flawed and unfair.

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

The U.S. Capitol Police takes down Congress ‘Mean Machine’ 16-14 in Charity Football Game  

(Thursday, September 28): The annual Congressional Football Game for Charity was a nail-biter with the U.S. Capitol Police team scoring in the final minute for a two-point victory. Mean Machine captains Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Rick Crawford (R-AR) exhibited great leadership on and off the field to make this game a huge success, raising $500,000 for charity.

SFIA thanks Nike, Shock Doctor, Wilson, Riddell, and Saranac for supporting the game with equipment and uniform donations to the teams.

Congressional ‘Mean Machine’ and U.S. Capitol Police celebrate raising $500K for charity.
 
Congressional Football Helmets from RIddell
Congressman Richard McCormick defends U.S.C.P.
Mean Machine looks to shut down U.S.C.P.
 
Bill Sells, SFIA, with Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonough
Mean Machine Stands for National Anthem
Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonough
Bill Sells with Minority Leader Pete Aguilar (D-CA)

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

(Wednesday, September 27): The 2023 Congressional Football Game will take place on Thursday, September 28. The 14th annual game will take place at Audi Field in Washington, DC.

Started in 2004, the Congressional Football Game was first organized to honor and support the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police and to support the families of fallen officers. The biennial showdown features Members of Congress and former NFL players facing off against U.S. Capitol Police. The game is a family-friendly event that includes entertainment and spirited competition on the field while bringing together Congressional and law enforcement communities in support of worthy causes.

The 2023 Game will benefit the Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Our Military Kids, and A Advantage 4 Kids.

As a supporter of the Congressional Football game, SFIA provides gear and equipment from our member companies for the players!

Click here to learn more, donate, or purchase your tickets!

Here is a sneak peek at one of the practices, where Democrats and Republicans came together to get prepped for the big game. SFIA’s Sr. Vice President for Government & Public Affairs, Bill Sells, was out with the squad helping with practice and ensuring everyone had the gear they needed.

 
Youth Sports Caucus Chairman Mark Veasey (D-TX) beats SFIA’s Bill Sells for reception
Sells (handing out pennies) works with Congressional Football Defense Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Hilary Scholten (D-MI) and Mark Veasey (D-TX)
Congressional QB Bob Dold searches for a receiver as Sells plays free safety – Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), Kevin Mullin (D-CA), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Rick Crawford (R-AR) and VA Secretary McDonough are his options.
Team huddle to discuss game plan. R-L Coach John Booty, staff, VA Secy McDonough (obscured), Mark Veasey (D-TX), Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ) Bob Dold (IL), Don Davis (D-NC), Coach Ken Harvey (obscured by) former Congressman Bob Dold (Illinois), staff, Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Rick Crawford (R-AR) (head only), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Bill Sells, Former Cong. Jack Kingston (GA), Rich McCormick R-GA), staff, staff, Hilary Scholten (D-MI)

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

(Wednesday, September 20) It has been more than two years since two important tariff relief programs lapsed. The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) provide more than $100 million in tariff relief on sport and fitness products imported into the U.S. To qualify for tariff exemption under the GSP, a product must be made in one of more than 110 GSP-eligible countries with developing economies. Products currently made in GSP countries include backpacks, sports bags, golf bags/equipment, sports gloves, racquets, volleyballs, basketballs, and fitness consoles. MTB-eligible products must be vetted by the ITA to ensure they are not made in the U.S. SFIA had 82 MTB petitions approved by the ITA in the last vetting, for up to $41 million in tariff relief.

SFIA is pleased to report there is progress on both programs. The House Ways & Means Subcommittee held a hearing today on ways to improve GSP and included both GSP reauthorization and MTB renewal in the discussion. Please find the opening statement of Ways & Means Chairman Jason Smith here. SFIA will continue to press for the passage of legislation to provide tariff relief to lower the cost of getting our members’ products to market.

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

August 31, 2023

The International Longshoreman and Warehouse Workers Unions representing 22,000 dock workers at 29 West Coast ports approved the new labor contract just before Labor Day. The contract was approved with 75 percent of workers voting in favor of the new deal that includes a 32 percent pay increase and a bonus for working through the COVID pandemic.

The unrest at West Coast ports during contentious contract talks cost West Coast ports business, as shippers opted for ports on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico to avoid any disruptions in supply chains from labor slowdowns. Recognizing the loss of commerce at West Coast ports, the new contract provides a framework “to overcome competitive challenges” resulting from the import fallout at the ports during labor talks.

The new contract runs through July 1, 2028.

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

Quarterly Newsletter – August 2023

With the COVID pandemic behind us, Congress has moved on to recovery. The economy remains sluggish and consumer prices continue to rise. SFIA advocacy has targeted policies to lower consumer costs, create more resilient supply chains, protect IPR, and increase participation in sports and fitness.

TRADE 

Agreements
The Administration is pursuing two multilateral trade agreements, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and the America’s Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP). These are not trade agreements and the U.S. Trade Representative has publicly stated these agreements are: “Not traditional trade deals… we are not trying to maximize efficiencies and liberalization… we are trying to promote sustainability, resilience, and inclusiveness.” SFIA has remained neutral on these multilateral agreements with 13 Indo-Pacific and 11 Western Hemisphere trading partners, due to the absence of Market Access and Tariff Reduction provisions in the agreements.

Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF)
The IPEF has three main pillars: Trade, Climate Transition, and Labor & Inclusiveness. Fourteen trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region are involved in the IPEF talks to secure more stable supply chains and improve communications and coordination when disruptions occur. China is not part of the IPEF.

America’s Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP)
APEP is an agreement between twelve Western Hemisphere trading partners. Like the IPEF, the APEP’s goal is regional competitiveness, reliable supply chains, shared prosperity, and a sustainable environment. To improve efficiency, the agreement includes digitization of customs procedures and binding trade facilitation provisions. The APEP emphasizes worker wages and environmental preservation.

Neither trade agreement includes “market access” or “tariff relief” to liberalize trade between participating countries. SFIA supports efforts to improve supply chains but believes the lack of trade liberalization to facilitate the movement of goods, especially U.S. exports, limits the benefit of these agreements for U.S. companies. 

Indian Footwear Quality Control Requirements
India has proposed new testing and labeling requirements for footwear. The new regulations mandate the use of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for testing and measuring hard labels on performance footwear. The testing must be performed on-site with specific equipment not readily available. 

ASTM International, the International Standards Organization (IS0), and the Shoe & Allied Trades Research Associations (SATRA) testing and measurement standards are widely used across the globe and are compatible with BIS. SFIA requested assistance from the U.S. Trade Representative on getting India to use common testing & measuring standards and removing the hard label requirement for performance footwear sold in the Indian market.

TARIFFS

China Section 301 Tariffs
SFIA requested the elimination of Section 301 Tariffs or the re-opening of the exclusion process at a minimum. USTR Tai has publicly stated she believes the tariffs serve a purpose and should not be dropped.

China’s behavior on several fronts helps justify the USTR position as China:

In the current environment, expect tariffs of up to 25 percent on Chinese products to continue to be collected by Customs & Border Patrol (CBP).

The Section 301 Tariffs were implemented to punish China for repeated violations of international trade laws. China is doing more to enforce IPR laws, but fake products made in China continue to flow into the stream of commerce. Additional steps are being taken to disrupt imports of counterfeits.

On a related matter, the U.S. Court of International Trade ruled that the Section 301 Tariffs are legal, but that USTR failed to follow proper protocols in collecting public comments. USTR has since convinced the court that its comment process complies with requirements. The decision is under appeal.

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)
SFIA has urged Congress to pass GSP to incentivize production outside China and lower consumer prices in an inflationary economy. SFIA identified roughly two dozen industry products manufactured in GSP-eligible countries that now have duties of up to 17 percent upon entry into the U.S.

The GSP is a long-established trade program that offers duty-free treatment on imports of products made in more than 110 countries with developing economies. SFIA has identified a number of products made in GSP-eligible countries to avoid duties of up to 17 percent upon entry into the U.S.

The GSP expired on January 1, 2021, and Congress has failed to pass legislation to renew it. The lack of tariff incentives has slowed the movement of production operations out of China, despite Section 301 tariffs, and contributed to higher consumer prices. SFIA has pressed Congress to reauthorize the GSP program immediately.

Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) 
SFIA has pressed Congress to renew the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) to eliminate out-of-date tariffs. The U.S. International Trade Commission vetted 82 SFIA petitions requesting tariff relief on industry products and recommended them for inclusion in the MTB. Each petition is capped at $500,000 in tariff relief for a potential of $41 million in tariff relief on SFIA member products.

When overseas production became a threat to U.S. manufacturers, tariffs were applied to foreign-made products to protect domestic manufacturers. Over time, production of many consumer goods moved overseas, and domestic production vanished but the tariffs on foreign-made goods remained in place.

The Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) offers companies the opportunity to petition for the removal of outdated tariffs on imports of products no longer made in the U.S. SFIA will continue to push Congress to pass the MTB and bring down consumer prices in an inflationary economy.

De Minimis Exemption
It is estimated that more than two million packages a day enter the U.S. under de minimis rules, effectively avoiding inspection, duties, taxes, and fees. To bypass CBP oversight, products must have a value of less than $800 to qualify as a De Minimis shipment. Since the implementation of Section 301 Tariffs, Chinese manufacturers have increased the use of the De Minimis Exception to avoid tariffs. The use of De Minimis also offers counterfeits an avenue for entry into the U.S. without CBP scrutiny, putting consumers at greater risk of harm from counterfeits.

Congress is exploring ways to reign in the use of the De Minimis exception to circumvent tariffs and inspections. The “Import Security and Fairness Act” (H.R.4148) is bi-partisan legislation to ban companies in non-market economies like China from using the $800 De Minimis threshold to import products into the U.S. CBP would be required to collect additional information on all De Minimis packages and could bar bad actors from using the De Minimis rule to deter abuse of the exceptions offered on low-value shipments.

SUPPLY CHAINS

West Coast Port Labor
SFIA asked for the Administration’s help in finalizing a new labor contract to avoid unnecessary delays at 29 west coast ports. Labor Secretary Su engaged in the contract talks leading to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and International Longshoreman & Warehouse Union (ILWU), reaching a tentative deal on a new labor contract on June 15th.

In response to pressure from the business community, manufacturers, and shippers, the Administration intervened in the labor talks to avoid disruptions or a strike.

The Unions will vote to ratify the new labor contract followed by the PMA. If all parties ratify the new contract, an artificial disruption in supply chains will be avoided.

UPS Strike
The United Parcel Service (UPS) moves an estimated 20 million packages a day, worth an estimated $3.8 billion or almost 6% of US GDP.  The current UPS labor agreement expired on July 31 and negotiations between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and UPS resolved most of the issues, but stalled over starting wage for part-time workers. SFIA pressed President Biden to intervene in the labor talks to ensure there was not an unnecessary disruption in supply chains. On July 25, The Teamsters and UPS reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract. The Teamsters will remain on the job through the ratification process, avoiding a potential strike.

The Teamsters viewed the UPS labor talks as an opportunity to highlight their ability to represent workers and get better labor deals as they look to expand into companies like Amazon. Teamsters President Sean O’Brien stated the UPS labor talks are “… the largest collective bargaining agreement in any private sector union,” and the contract could “set the tone and set the standard high for labor — not just the Teamsters but the entire labor movement.”

Labor unrest is an area where government involvement has avoided domestic disruptions in supply chains. The President and Labor Secretary were instrumental in resolving rail and west coast port strikes. SFIA appreciates the Administration’s engagement in UPS negotiations to secure the new labor agreement and avoid unnecessary disruptions in supply chains.   

Rail Detention & Demurrage Charges
SFIA is working to reduce excessive fees collected on containers stored in rail yards by pushing for clarification on oversight of rail storage fees and having fees billed through ocean carriers put rail under the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) umbrella to give the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) jurisdiction over rail storage fees.

Railyards are charging excessive D&D fees that must be paid directly to railroads to release cargo. Railroad cargo is unregulated, falling outside the scope of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) and the rail cargo is not under the jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

The INFORM Consumer Act
SFIA applauds the implementation of the INFORM Act to deter online sales of counterfeit products to preserve brand equity and protect consumers from sub-standard, unsafe products. The Integrity, Notification, Fairness in Online Retail Marketplace (INFORM) Consumers Act went into effect on June 27, 2023.

The new law provides greater oversight of the online marketplace and better protects intellectual property rights to help shield consumers from risks posed by counterfeit products. The INFORM Act requires online retailers like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, to collect tax ID numbers, government-issued IDs, and bank account information of sellers. Consumers will have access to the business names and addresses, the contact info of the seller, and the country of origin of the products sold. Failure to comply with the INFORMS Act could result in fines of up to $50,000 for each violation.

REGULATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Digital Labeling
Digital Labels offer the flexibility to provide information on care, content, importer requirements, the origin of the product, and its content to meet reporting requirements across the globe. SFIA joined 130 organizations representing global sportswear, performance apparel, footwear, and fashion interests on a letter requesting a move to digital labels.

Information provided through labels is critical to consumer education for informed purchasing decisions. Hard labels require 5.7 million miles of label tape annually, generating an estimated 343,000 metric tons of CO2. SFIA fully supports supplying consumers with information on care, content, country of origin, and other importer requirements to meet the web of labeling laws in a global marketplace, but believes there is a better platform to deliver this information.

Digital labels deliver information to consumers in a more environmentally responsible way. Digital labels are not limited by label size — information could be more easily read online and modified to meet any country’s product information requirements.

In short, digital labels are more efficient, offer greater flexibility, and provide an environmental benefit by eliminating hard labels many consumers remove anyway. 

PARTICIPATION

Prior to the pandemic, Congress had a great appreciation for physical activity’s role in reducing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, arthritis, certain cancers, and other chronic conditions. The pandemic highlighted the critical role activity plays in good mental health. There is a mental health crisis in America, especially for our young people. The rise in teen substance abuse and suicides was fueled by isolation. Now, cost and access barriers to youth sports are sidelining kids. SFIA supports policies to lower costs and invest in youth sports infrastructure to increase participation.

Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT)
Mental health remains a priority in Congress, and both sides agree on the need to do more to prevent and treat mental illness. The connection between activity and mental health was emphasized during the pandemic, but the participation costs barrier has gotten higher. SFIA is pressing for the inclusion of the PHIT Act in Health Savings Account reform legislation under consideration in Congress.

PHIT would allow Americans to use funds held in HSAs, FSAs, and other pre-tax medical accounts to pay for physical activity expenses as a form of prevention. The use of pre-tax money would effectively reduce consumer costs of activity by 25-37 percent to lower the financial barrier to participation. 

Expenses incurred to play youth sports, engage in adult fitness, participate in outdoor recreation, and other activities would be eligible for PHIT. Registration and tournament fees, membership dues, camps, clinics, and personal trainers are all covered expenses. Equipment, including home fitness equipment, is PHIT-eligible, but apparel and footwear that can be worn casually are not.

PHIT (H.R. 1582) is off to a great start in 2023 with 47 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House, including a dozen from the Ways & Means Committee which has jurisdiction over PHIT due to the tax incentive. In the Senate, PHIT (S.786) enjoys support from 16 Senators, including the #2 Republican, John Thune, who is the lead sponsor, and #2 Democrat Dick Durbin, who is a co-sponsor.

Youth Sports Infrastructure
SFIA is leading the effort to build more youth sports facilities. SFIA worked with Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) in drafting the “Youth Sports Facilities Act of 2023” to create more places for children to participate in sports, physical education, and other physical activities. The bill would dedicate funds for the construction of new sports facilities in underserved rural and urban areas with high levels of substance abuse or violence.

Local governments, non-profit organizations, and schools would be eligible for grants through a competitive grant process managed by the Secretary of Education. Low-income communities with limited-to-no access to sports facilities would receive grant priority. Projects include gyms, athletic fields or courts, swimming pools, fitness centers, rock climbing walls, ice arenas, pools, and other recreation spaces. Grants can also be used to upgrade existing facilities and purchase sports equipment.

SFIA is currently seeking a Republican to Join Senator Ossoff on the Youth Sports Facilities Act.

Youth Sports Economic Impact Study
Youth sports generate revenue and create jobs in every community across the U.S. SFIA is leading the effort to capture the economic impact of this large industry to help promote investments in youth sports, participation incentives, and other policies leading to a more vibrant youth sports culture in America. SFIA has secured the help of top Appropriations Committee Member Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) to lead the effort to fund a Bureau of Economic Analysis Youth Sports Economic Impact Study to capture the economic contributions of youth sports across America.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates the total economic output of the outdoor recreation industry to be $862 billion annually… more than mining, utilities, and farming and ranching. $862 billion puts outdoor recreation at 1.9 percent of the U.S. GDP. Outdoor recreation is not in every community in America, but youth sports are. 

Youth sports facilities employ administrative, maintenance, and concessions staff to serve players and their families. The facilities are home to leagues that hire administrative staff, referees, and coaches. Youth sports facilities host clinics and tournaments which fill local hotel rooms and restaurants, further contributing to local economies. Leagues using facilities pay for their use and purchase uniforms and equipment for teams. And it’s not just the economic impact inside the youth sports complex — these facilities are a magnet for additional investment in communities as fueling stations, fast food and convenience stores, grocery stores, and chain drug stores are often developed around a facility, adding more jobs and contributions to local economies.

Name, Image, Likeness (NIL)
Bipartisan NIL legislation was introduced in the Senate by Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on July 25th. The Protecting Athletes, Schools and Sports Act (PASS) would protect student-athletes, preserve college sports, increase NIL transparency, moderate the Transfer Portal, promote the health and safety of student-athletes, and give NCAA greater oversight. 

In the House, the Committee on Energy & Commerce held a March hearing on NIL. All committee members and every witness, except the ‘unionize athletes’ advocate, agreed on the need for a national NIL law to level the playing field and provide transparency in the recruiting process.

Currently, 30 states have NIL laws and 20 do not. Witnesses and committee members agreed that the inconsistent laws are bad for college sports and are confusing to student-athletes. ‘Collectives’ that allow boosters to combine their resources to pursue potential players are a major problem. Laws regulating ‘Collectives’ vary widely from state to state, further tilting the NIL playing field. Small school sports programs, non-revenue, and Title IX sports are all threatened by NIL.

To date, the “Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act” (HR3630) is the only NIL bill introduced in the House. The bill would prohibit universities from blocking student-athlete NIL deals, and prohibit boosters from offering incentives to recruits and athletes in the Transfer Portal. An oversight body would be created to make recommendations on NIL and establish a dispute resolution process.

With the NIL playing field slanted heavily in favor of schools in states with NIL laws that allow boosters to have a role in the recruitment of high school players and the transfer of players from other schools, additional NIL bills have been teed up by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Congressman Gus Bilarakis (R-FL) and jointly by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) but none have been introduced.

Earlier this year, the NCAA announced that its NIL rules take precedence over state laws, further muddying the waters. ‘Collectives’ from USC (CA), UGA, UTENN, Ole Miss, University of Washington, and Clemson formed The Collective Association (TCA) to help clarify the current rules for student-athletes and universities and recommend new policies to improve the current system. It is unclear if the TCA is just playing defense or will work with Congress on a national NIL law.

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