Sportfishing industry testifies on tariffs before U.S. trade representatives

Alexandria, Va. – The American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) President, Glenn Hughes, along with many ASA members, made the case before the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that sportfishing equipment should be excluded from the next round of proposed tariffs on Chinese imports.

“We understand the position of the president regarding current trade relations with China and we support realigning the trade agreements to correct the unfair trade practices,” said Hughes. “However, we are deeply concerned about the impacts of these proposed tariffs on all the manufacturers who are already paying a unique excise tax of up to 10 percent to support sportfish restoration.”

On May 13, 2019, the administration proposed a list of approximately $300 billion in Chinese imports subject to Section 301 tariffs of up to 25 percent. This list of imports includes fishing equipment manufactured or sold by ASA’s members including fishing rods, hooks, reels, lines and many other necessary fishing equipment.

Today’s hearing before the USTR was an opportunity for the recreational sportfishing industry to make their case before the nation’s trade representatives that fishing equipment should be exempt from this new round of tariffs.

ASA members, including representatives from O. Mustad & Son, TackleDirect, Pure Fishing, ZEBCO Brands, Catch Co. and Big Rock Sports, provided testimony on the disproportionate economic harm these proposed tariffs could have on their bottom lines when this industry is already paying a unique 10 percent excise tax.

This excise tax is paid at the time of purchase and applied to items like fishing rods, reels, line, and tackle; the same fishing equipment on the tariff list. The funds collected from this excise tax flow into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF) that supports fisheries conservation and management practices as well as boating access and education in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

“Our members contribute almost $150 million each year to conservation and they know this funding goes to good use as it can help increase fishing opportunities for anglers,” said Hughes. “However, for an industry that already has slim profit margins an additional tariff on top of this excise tax could have a significant negative impact on their business, fishing participation and funding for the next generation of anglers.”

Sixty percent of fishing equipment is imported to the United States with two-thirds of this equipment coming from China. For many product categories, China is the only option to produce some of this fishing equipment as they have the supply lines and infrastructure already in place to meet anglers’ demands.

Attempting to find and move production to other countries would take considerable time and money, and ultimately doesn’t exist. Should these proposed tariffs go into effect on fishing equipment, it would increase the cost for consumers and moving supply lines would do the same.

Hughes concluded, “The proposed tariffs and the associated increases on the cost of fishing equipment are expected to result in a substantial reduction in consumer spending. Fewer fishing equipment purchases means less revenue for fisheries conservation and management, which ultimately means less funding for programs important to the Trump administration's priorities to improve public access to the outdoors.”