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Tariffs Set to Hit Paddlesports Hard

Paddlers are going to feel the pain of tariffs in the very near future, and that pain is going to get a lot worse once tariffs are implemented on a third list of goods, perhaps as early as mid September. This new list, covering $200 billion of imports from China, is the third “Section 301” list of Harmonized Tariff Numbers intended to punish China for allegedly dumping products below cost into the US market.

The trade war began in January when the Trump Administration imposed a 30% tariff on solar panels, and has been accelerating ever since. Aluminum and steel were added in May, followed by two prior additional lists of Chinese goods.

Contrary to public rhetoric, tariffs are simply taxes paid by American companies who trade overseas. They are not paid by foreign governments or foreign companies, and their effects are felt here in the USA. The 10% tariff on aluminum raises prices for any company using aluminum, even when domestically produced. Steel and aluminum mills take years to build, so domestic supply cannot rise very quickly and prices rise to match the cost of imports paying the tax.

The paddling community will feel the pain of tariffs in many ways. Imported paddles, kayaks and boats will take a direct hit as prices are passed along the supply chain to the consumer. There is no doubt that a 25% price increase will slow demand and hurt sales. Paddlesports have long been a way for the middle class to enjoy the outdoors on a reasonable budget, but most middle class families can’t just ignore a 25% price increase on a leisure item.

Domestic producers using tariffed materials will also be hit. Aluminum used in paddle shafts and canoes will cost more. Even those domestic manufacturers using no imported material will be hit in several ways.

Consumers will see a big drop in discretionary income as price increases on the necessities of daily life bite into their wallet. The tariff list is so vast that few families can avoid it; everything from baseball gloves to clothing to furniture will be hit. Taxes on construction materials will ultimately mean higher housing costs. Anglers will pay more for fishing nets. With incomes hardly rising many American families will look at watersports as a luxury they can no longer afford.

U.S. factories will be hit with retaliatory tariffs from our trading partners in Canada as well, which will mean further sales drops.

While intended to promote U.S. industry this trade war is doing much more harm than good. Our industry needs to speak up to our elected representatives and point out the jobs that will be lost and the middle class consumers that will be priced out of the market as a result. America’s waterways shouldn’t just be for the rich. Keeping paddlesports affordable needs to be a priority.

- John Hoge is Vice President at Sea Eagle inflatable boats

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