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Footwear trade group CEO: 'Our members are livid' over tariffs

Reggie Wade
Writer

American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) CEO Rick Helfenbein is not happy with the prospect of new tariffs on Chinese goods. "Our members are livid over tariffs," he told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move.

Helfenbein and the heads of more than 100 apparel, footwear, and accessories companies recently sent a letter to Trump urging him not to move forward with the plan. He also testified before a Congressional panel to stress the burden that new tariffs would put not only on footwear retailers but the American people. "Tariffs are not good; they are going to be a tax on the American consumer."

In May, Trump ordered the Office of the United States Trade Representative, to begin the process of raising tariffs on virtually all remaining imports from China, which are valued at approximately $300 billion.

Despite assurances in a Tweet from Trump that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had “a very good telephone conversation” and will meet next week at the G-20 in Japan, many manufacturers remain on edge.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about healthcare coverage options for small businesses and workers during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Helfenbein said that additional tariffs would be "catastrophic" to footwear, apparel and textile retailers. "If we ran my business like this we would get tossed out of the board room ... We are seeing the market go up, up, up, and we are worried our earnings will go down, down, down," he said.

In the letter to Trump, AAFA members implore Trump to consider how much U.S. retailers rely on Chinese goods and the tariff burden that footwear and apparel industries bear:

"As you may know, China currently accounts for about 69 percent of our footwear and about 42 percent of the apparel sold in the United States today … In 2018, our industries paid more than $18 billion in tariffs, representing nearly 40 percent of all tariffs collected by the U.S. government, yet we accounted for only about 6 percent of all U.S. imports."

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade .

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