Background

Footwear importers have until Nov. 15 to file comments in opposition to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s proposal to change its treatment of textile upper footwear that has been classified as “non-athletic” because the uppers are embroidered or decorated with sequins. Under this proposal the duty rate on such footwear would jump from 9 percent to 20 percent. If imported from China, this footwear is also subject to a Section 301 additional tariff of 15 percent.

The proposal would change CBP’s longstanding practice of excluding heavily embroidered and sequined footwear from classification as athletic footwear and effectively revoke the exclusion for such footwear set forth in CBP’s footwear definitions published in T. D. 93-88. By way of explanation, CBP asserts in its proposed ruling revocation that embroidery alone does not preclude shoes from being classified as athletic footwear.

However, it is also clear that CBP is looking at broadening its definition of athletic footwear and there is concern that CBP might look at other features, such as slip-on, that have typically excluded footwear from being considered athletic. The proposed change thus jeopardizes the current classification treatment of a broad range of textile upper footwear with features such as flexible outsoles and cushioned insoles.

Importers of such footwear should consider filing comments in opposition to CBP’s proposed change in practice. For assistance in doing so, or for more information on the impact of this proposal, please contact customs attorney William Maloney at (212) 549-0149.

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