236. Statement Issued by the White House1

The President today announced a program of assistance to non-rubber footwear firms and workers in the United States. The program has three major components:

  • —Initiation by the President of an investigation by the Tariff Commission, under the escape clause provision of the Trade Expansion Act, of the impact of increased imports on the men’s and women’s leather footwear industry.2
  • —A series of domestic Government measures to deal directly with the various problems faced by some footwear firms and workers.
  • —Authority for the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Commerce to proceed on each of the six adjustment assistance cases on which the Tariff Commission recently completed investigations.

The President’s program was developed from the findings of an inter-agency task force organized to make an extensive study of the footwear problem with particular attention to the impact of import competition. The study is being released today.3

This study concludes that many producers are able to meet competition but that some face problems from a number of sources. One of these has been the recent, rising volume of imported footwear. Other problems were found to include technological, organizational and marketing [Page 607] changes, shifts in the location of production away from traditional manufacturing areas, and rapid changes in the demand for footwear, with increasing emphasis upon style.

Some firms, the task force found, now need to modernize, rationalize their production, possibly change their product lines, and otherwise improve their competitive ability. It reported that such firms would be in difficulty from existing domestic competition regardless of the level of imports.

The task force reported that the facts and information available to it did not demonstrate a case of overall import injury. However, the task force also noted its concern that, if all the necessary information were available, there might well be injury to the men’s and women’s leather footwear industry which has experienced a sharp increase in import competition. It pointed out that an investigation such as the Tariff Commission is authorized to conduct—with powers of subpoena, access to confidential business data, and public hearings—would provide a more comprehensive basis for judgment than was available to the task force.

On the basis of the findings of the task force, the President has decided that import restraints are not the answer to the footwear problem. The Administration has therefore opposed legislated quotas on shoe imports. However, an investigation by the Tariff Commission under section 301(b) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 could provide a more comprehensive basis for judging the extent of any injury. The President is therefore requesting that the Commission investigate whether imports are causing or threatening to cause serious injury to the domestic men’s and women’s leather footwear industry. He hopes that the Tariff Commission, in light of the information assembled by the task force and its own two earlier section 332 investigations of non-rubber footwear, will expedite its report with a view to an early finding.

This is the first occasion on which any President has asked for an escape clause investigation since the beginning of the trade agreements program in 1934. An affirmative finding under section 301 could make available to men’s and women’s leather footwear industry, its firms, and its workers the variety of forms of relief and assistance prescribed by the Congress in the 1962 Act. If the President’s proposed Trade Bill of 1969 is enacted by the Congress during the Tariff Commission’s investigation, its more liberal escape clause and adjustment assistance criteria will apply in this instance.

The President also concluded that, notwithstanding the Tariff Commission investigation, Government measures are necessary to help certain footwear producers and workers, and the communities where footwear is an important source of income and employment. The [Page 608] President has accordingly directed the Secretary of Commerce to assume responsibility for a footwear program, in coordination with the other Cabinet officers who are members of the Adjustment Assistance Advisory Board or whose departments will be involved in this program.

The President has directed that these federal agencies take action to improve the employability of footwear workers, to develop jobs for those displaced by the many changes now occurring within the domestic industry, to assist in the revitalization of the communities adversely affected, and to provide special assistance for affected firms. Among the programs to be undertaken will be the following:

The Department of Labor and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare will develop and provide special footwear programs within the framework of existing manpower retraining and development legislation, and will urge the individual States concerned to provide special attention in their own manpower programs. These efforts will seek to meet the special problems of footwear workers, taking into account the composition of the labor force in terms of age, sex, skill levels, and mobility. In areas where the problem is primarily one of shortages of skilled footwear workers, the objective will be to provide additional training opportunities; where unemployment is the primary problem, the objective will be retraining and adjustment to other jobs.
The Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce will develop programs to attract other industries to the communities heavily dependent upon shoe production. These programs will be developed in cooperation with the affected communities. The Economic Development Administration will also give consideration to requests for financing necessary public services to support new or expanding industries and to make loans directly to new businesses in these areas.
The Department of Transportation, when local authorities request its assistance, will provide financial assistance in establishing the commuter facilities authorized by the urban mass transportation program to provide or improve transportation facilities between areas of substantial unemployment and neighboring areas where job opportunities exist.
The Small Business Administration will expedite consideration of loan and other assistance requests from small shoe firms to help them in their adjustment problems.
The Secretary of Commerce, with the assistance of other members of the Adjustment Assistance Advisory Board, will undertake consultations with the footwear industry to develop any further measures of assistance found to be necessary.

[Page 609]

On the advice of the Department of Justice, the President has also concluded that he has the authority in the case of split decisions by the Tariff Commission in adjustment assistance cases to act on the findings of either group of Commissioners. He is, therefore, informing the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce that the decisions of the Tariff Commission in six recent cases are affirmative findings and that the Secretaries are authorized to consider certifications of the firms and workers involved under the terms of section 302(c) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 364, Office of the Special Representative for Trade Negotiations: Lot 78 B 1, Nonrubber Footwear-White House Press Release, June 24, 1970. No classification marking. Issued by the Office of the White House Press Secretary.
  2. See Document 212.
  3. The study has not been found. Documentation on the work of this task force is in the National Archives, RG 364, Office of the Special Representative for Trade Negotiations: Lot 78 B 1, Nonrubber Footwear, Financial Data.