Tariffs would “raise prices across the board” and “impact recreational tennis play,” TIA President Jeff Williams tells interagency trade committee.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 27, 2019) — TIA President Jeff Williams was among more than 325 executives who testified on Capitol Hill recently in opposition to the proposed China tariffs. Many of those testifying told the committee that the 25 percent tariffs on roughly $300 billion in Chinese imports would essentially act as a tax on Americans and threaten jobs in the U.S.
The interagency “Section 301 Committee” is composed of representatives from agencies such as the departments of Commerce, Customs & Border Protection, Agriculture, State, Treasury, Small Business and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The hearings, which ran from June 17 through 25, were held at the U.S. International Trade Commission building. The TIA was assisted in its appearance by Edward Steiner, senior director for international trade and governmental relations at Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg.
The companies and organizations testifying at the tariffs hearing included representatives from manufacturers of all types of products, including sports equipment. In addition to Williams, others involved in the tennis and racquet sports industry who went to Capitol Hill to oppose the tariffs included Greg Mason of Head USA, Monica Gorman of New Balance Athletics, Gary Wakley of Fila U.S.A. and Bill Sells of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Each person had five minutes to present their testimony, then committee members had a chance to ask the panelists questions.
Representing the tennis industry, Jeff Williams presented this testimony on June 25:
Thank you for your time and consideration in allowing me to appear before you today. My name is Jeff Williams. I am the President of the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), the not-for-profit trade association for the tennis industry. TIA was founded in 1974 as the American Tennis Federation and today is comprised of nearly 600 member companies, organizations, associations, tennis businesses and key industry stakeholders. Its key efforts are focusing on providing the industry with market research, growing frequent players, enhancing communications & positioning of the sport and industry, and unifying the industry under one brand — TENNIS.
Currently, the tennis industry contributes approximately $6 billion to the U.S. economy and represents nearly 18 million Americans who play tennis, 100-year-old tennis manufacturing companies, hard-working brick and mortar tennis retailers, teaching pros and coaches who count on industry jobs, and a 100,000-plus tennis network whose livelihood is dependent on trade.
The TIA is concerned about tariffs on imports of tennis-related sporting goods from China – specifically tennis racquets and tennis balls - because, ultimately, these tariffs will impact recreational tennis play, which is at the forefront of healthy lifestyles and wellness programs. The imposition of tariffs on tennis products will raise prices across the board for the entire community and force an already weakened tennis industry to further constrict; the industry still hasn’t recovered from the 2008 recession and manufacturer shipments into the U.S. marketplace have decreased by more than 50%.
There is no viable U.S. domestic production of these products and switching foreign suppliers – which would involve qualifying new suppliers, identifying new country locations and encouraging suppliers to build new factories - would be prohibitively costly and time-consuming. The added cost of the tariffs would have several immediate as well as long-term effects:
1. Increased tariffs would slow investment in all areas of future development for the industry. This would have an impact on tennis facility and retail operations including involving hiring, staffing and future capital improvements to stay relevant and attract more players.
2. Increased tariffs would mean higher prices for consumers which might dissuade consumers from engaging in our sport.
3. Increased tariffs would exacerbate an already challenging sales climate for companies in the U.S., potentially forcing businesses to lay off workers and even shut their doors, impeding efforts to engage more Americans in an active, healthy lifestyle due to the increased costs of the equipment to play.
In closing, I would note that raising duties on these products would not have any impact whatsoever on China’s acts, policies, and practices regarding technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation. This industry is not cutting edge nor a priority sector for China in its 2025 development objectives.
For these reasons, we would urge the USTR not to include tennis racquets and tennis balls on the list of products subject to Section 301 duties.
The TIA is planning to submit post-hearing comments to the interagency committee by July 2. After the comment period, the USTR will begin final evaluations of submissions, a process that Steiner anticipates will be completed by mid-August.
More information on the TIA’s efforts can be found at tariffalert.org, or contact the TIA at 843-686-3036.