A customs trade attorney closed the annual SFIA Industry Leaders Summit last week with both warnings and advice for attendees. Comments by Frances Hadfield, counsel for international law firm Crowell & Moring LLP ended the two-day event that included crowning the winner of the trade group’s 4th annual Start-up Challenge, presentations by senior executives from Topgolf and lululemon, year-to-date statistical data on category sales trends by the NPD’s Matt Powell and an inspiring speech by U.S. Olympic gold medal winner and former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott.
“I’m afraid we’ve only been at this 15 months. They (China) may wait us out,” said Hadfield after offering her assessment of the current U.S.-China trade standoff. “I don’t think you can address Asia in this fashion. They’re very much about saving face and making sure they don’t look bad. At this point, we’ve kind of wedged them into a corner and a made a public showing of the things we’re displeased about which doesn’t allow them (China) to exit gracefully.”
With higher-rate and more tariffs set for implementation Oct. 15 and Dec. 15, the licensed customs broker offered a sobering statistic about the tariff exclusion process—only 3,150 of some 30,000 exclusion requests have been granted by the U.S. Hadfield advised vendors to be smart and careful with their official tariff filings, including being specific with their product descriptions and double-checking that they have the correct tariff codes for their products.
She also suggested tariff engineering, citing Columbia Sportswear’s expertise, as one method to lessen the impact of potential duties, and warned about potential pitfalls of supply chain adjustment.
“You have a lot of things that can go sour if you move your supply chain, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it,” said Hadfield, adding, “By moving and shifting operations, you are going to have some quality issues.” Still, she confirmed that moving a ‘country of origin’ for a product is one solution for avoiding 301 tariffs.
Crowell & Moring, which publishes a trade blog at CMTradeLaw.com, worked on behalf of SFIA clients during the last Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) process by filing 36 petitions that were granted and are saving an aggregate $52.5 million over three years ending in 2020.
Elsewhere on the trade front, business groups are continuing to pressure Congress to pass the Trump Administration’s trade deal, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), following a summer of intense lobbying.
As for the Start-Up Challenge, Miro, a firm focused on computer vision and artificial intelligence that utilizes complex algorithms to provide athlete apparel insights to retailers and vendors from competitions and races, beat out four other entrant. The company will receive $25,000 in digital marketing services from Empirika Media Group.