“We died on the Senate floor,” says J.O. Ratliff, owner of New West International and government-affairs representative for SnowSports Industries America.
The death Ratliff is referring to was bill HR 4342, The Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 1998, which contained provisions drafted to reduce punitive tariffs on numerous products-including snowboard boots.
Approximately 180 tariff conditions were included as riders to the bill. (A rider is additional clause appended to a legislative bill to secure some distinct objective.) One of these riders would have temporarily suspended the 21-percent duty on snowboard boots with textile uppers. Other industry-related clauses within the bill affected steel for snowboard or ski edges, and base materials.
The bill, already approved by the House, reached the Senate one hour before the 105th Congress closed for the year. Unfortunately, the bill failed to pass because of other non-industry related matters within HR 4342.
“Now we have to go back to square one,” Ratliff says. “I’ve been looking into some administrative avenues, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Tariff and import duties belong to the Congress. I had hoped customs could bypass the legislation, but they’re by the book.”
Ratliff adds that the United States Customs Department recognizes that the 21-percent tariff is unfair and it would consent to breaking snowboard boots out of the category they currently fall under.
Though the fight began with the support of only one domestic snowboard-boot brand, Ratliff says he now has support from others who are affected by the tariff. “We’ve got the West Coast and the East Coast involved in this now,” he adds.
Unfortunately there are no guarantees that the new legislation will speed through Congress. Ratliff says it could take up to two years before a similar bill comes to the Senate floor for approval.