Recreational fishing is as “American as mom and apple pie.” That’s how American Sportfishing Association’s President Glenn Hughes described this iconic American pastime during a June 17, public hearing on proposed tariffs on Chinese imports hosted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington, D.C.
Glenn was making the case before our nation’s top trade enforcement officials that sportfishing equipment should be excluded from the next possible round of tariffs of up to 25% on items such as rods, reels and tackle imported from China.
We all agree that we need a better, fairer trade relationship with China. However, adding an additional 25% tax on top of the 10% excise tax required by the Sport Fish Restoration Act would cut into already slim profit margins for our industry. ASA is working to make sure our industry is excluded from another potential tax that is creating uncertainty in our industry and threatening jobs in the United States.
Our Government Affairs team has spent many hours making the rounds on Capitol Hill to make this case on your behalf. We are working for you!
Our industry already pays over $100 million annually in a federal excise tax supporting state-based aquatic resource conservation and management across the country to the betterment of recreational fishing. Without this important funding source, it would be difficult to imagine what fisheries, and access to them, would look like.
As Jordan Davis, President and Chief Sales Officer at O. Mustad & Sons explained during his testimony before USTR, increased tariffs will directly impact consumer purchases and these purchases are what drives payments of the excise tax. Therefore, these tariffs would not only hurt the thousands of recreational fishing businesses throughout the country, most of which are small to medium size, but would reduce conservation funding for the states.
Uncertainty is also a huge barrier to business growth. Tim MacGuidwin, COO for Catch Co., who also testified, described how approximately 95% of their manufacturing occurs in China. Moving the established supply lines is expensive, if even possible, since manufacturing infrastructure may not exist in other countries. This uncertainty makes it increasingly difficult to plan for the longer term when trade policies are in constant flux.
A top argument the Administration uses to defend tariffs on Chinese imports is that they protect jobs right here at home. We agree that we must support good-paying jobs in the United States, but tariffs only make sense for businesses that source, manufacture, assemble and sell only products from the United States. But for many companies that’s not the case as they rely on imports as part of their business model.
Take for example businesses like Patrick Gill’s TackleDirect, which employs about 100 people through their retail business, that sells fishing equipment imported from China. In fact, about one-third of what they sell to anglers is imported from Chinese manufacturers. Ultimately, tariffs on these imports would impact their bottom-line threatening business growth. If the Administration is serious about saving and creating good-paying jobs in the United States it should not threaten businesses who already employ folks here at home.
All of us in the industry understand that fishing is more than just a favorite pastime enjoyed by 49 million Americans: it’s a growing business. We do not want to throw obstacles in the way that would slow or even reverse growth of our $125 billion industry. We therefore ask that sportfishing equipment be excluded from this potential round of Chinese tariffs.
ASA greatly appreciates the sportfishing industry leaders who travelled to Washington D.C. to testify in person to USTR:
- Gary Zurn, Senior Vice President, Big Rock Sports
- Harlan Kent, President & CEO, Pure Fishing
- Jeff Moore, Vice President of Operations, ZEBCO Brands
- Jordan Davis, President & Chief Sales Officer, O. Mustad & Sons
- Patrick Gill, Founder & CEO, TackleDirect
- Tim MacGuidwin, Chief Operating Officer, Catch Co.