IMPORTERS CALLING FOR REPEAL OF '94 SHEEP PROMOTION ACT

Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK--The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel is calling on Congress to repeal the Sheep Promotion Research and Information Act of 1994 (S2500) that was passed by Congress last October.
The law will impose a 2-cents-per-pound tax on clean wool and wool by-products, domestic and imported, to promote wool sales in the U.S. It will become effective when the mechanism for collecting the tax is in place, which is expected to be before the end of the year. Importers are upset over the prospect, saying consumers will be paying for the promotion of domestic wool items.
The new law will take effect as the current Wool Act is being phased out. That act, which Congress in October 1993 voted to phase out, has subsidized the domestic wool and mohair industries since 1954. It will be completely phased out next year.
"Basically, this is an innovative way for Congress and the administration to place another hidden tax on the already overburdened consumer, without having it show up as part of the federal budget," said Laura Jones, executive director of the USA-ITA.
Pierce Miller, president of the American Sheep Industry Association, disagrees.
"For all these years, the U.S. sheep producers have been funding promotions for lamb and wool and the importers have enjoyed the benefits of those promotions," Miller said. Miller added that a woman's wool coat is made of about seven pounds of clean wool; a consumer would pay "about 14 cents additionally on an item that could cost $500. I don't see this as burdensome to the consumer."
The USA-ITA opposes S2500, arguing that:
The fee eliminates one of the few consumer benefits of GATT. The association contends that under GATT, duties on several wool apparel products, including coats, are scheduled to be reduced by about 2 percent over a 10-year period.
Currently, wool tariffs are among the highest, averaging 40 percent on fabric and 18 percent on apparel.
The International Wool Secretariat already promotes wool. The IWS, beginning next month, is charging companies $5,000 per year for use of the Woolmark or Woolblend mark.
Miller said ASIA wants to work with the IWS on joint promotions, "which will not duplicate each other's efforts."
The USA-ITA argues the new law is discriminatory because raw wool is excluded.
"Importers will not get any benefits out of this bill," Jones said. "We hope we can at least get Congress to take another look at it."

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