New Balance boasts that it’s the only major company to make more than four million pairs of athletic shoes a year domestically. It has five New England factories, with one more expected to open next year. The catch? It needs to import component parts from China that are no longer made in the United States.
It’s just one example of how many American corporations have built supply chains that span the globe, and why Trump’s protectionist trade policies won’t work to bring manufacturing back to the United States. It’s just too hard to ding China without hurting American companies, workers and consumers along the way.
New Balance will join a chorus of opposition to a proposed new round of tariffs on Chinese goods at hearings this week. More than 300 company executives and trade group officials are scheduled to testify, from industries ranging from apparel and toys to fishing and fireworks.
Until now, New Balance has focused on fighting efforts to open up trade. The company fought the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which would have phased out tariffs on shoes coming from Vietnam.
Now New Balance, which has fought counterfeit operations in China for years, says Trump’s tariffs — which Trump has argued will get China to agree to favorable terms in a new trade deal — won’t help the challenges it faces from abroad.
New Balance did not respond to calls from CNN for this story.
Trump put a first round of tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese-made goods nearly a year ago, amid negotiations for a broader trade deal that would address issues over intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.
Footwear groups say that new tariffs won’t bring back the suppliers of uppers (the part around your foot), soles or inserts. The US footwear industry produces just 25 million pairs of shoes a year, while importing 2.5 billion, despite existing tariffs on foreign-made shoes and materials.
“It will not happen. We’ve had high duty rates for 90 years and production still left,” said Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, which has opposed Trump’s tariffs.