New Balance is lobbying to preserve a U.S. tariff on shoe imports from Vietnam, saying its removal would jeopardize domestic shoe manufacturing operations that employ 4,000 people across the country.
The Boston sneaker company is set to co-host a Washington news conference Wednesday with Massachusetts and Maine legislators in advance of a 14th round of negotiations in September for a free trade agreement between the United States and eight Pacific Rim countries that would cut tariffs on a range of goods and services.
Those tariffs include duties on athletic footwear made in Vietnam, where production and labor costs are significantly lower than in the United States, according to Matt LeBretton, New Balance’s director of public affairs. Behind China, Vietnam is the second largest footwear maker in the world and the fastest growing, he said.
“We have 1,300 people making shoes in the United States right now, and what we’re saying … is don’t change a system that isn’t broken and don’t endanger the livelihood of these folks,” LeBretton said.
About 7 million pairs of New Balance sneakers are made annually at the company’s manufacturing facilities in Boston, Lawrence and Maine, 25 percent of North American sales, while the rest are made in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) is scheduled to attend today’s news conference. “I’m proud to stand with manufacturers in Massachusetts to raise awareness of an important issue affecting the Massachusetts economy,” he said.
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