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Blumenauer looks to suspend tariffs on foreign-made bike parts

Posted by on January 17th, 2008 at 10:53 am

Earl Blumenauer in Portland-9.jpg
Earl Blumenauer
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) introduced a series of ten bills this week that look to temporarily suspend the import duties on bicycle parts needed by American manufacturers that are not produced in the United States.

According to a press statement just released by his office in Washington DC, these bills will be referred to the Ways and Means Committee, on which Blumenauer serves, for consideration in the broader Miscellaneous Tariff Bill.

Blumenauer says, “Bicycles provide important, environmentally friendly transportation alternatives, and I am happy to do my part to make them more accessible and affordable.”

By waiving tariffs on parts that are not produced in the U.S., he claims, “we do a service to American bike manufacturers and riders.”

One local manufacturer, custom bike maker Tony Pereira, had this to say about Blumenauer’s move,

“This is a long overdue move. These tariffs are outdated and do not reflect the current reality of the domestic bicycle parts market…With the sagging dollar foreign made products have become more and more expensive and eliminating these tariffs would help increase profits for re-sellers in the US without hurting any domestic manufacturers. My material costs (steel tubing from Italy) have increased nearly 40% in the last year. A bit of relief would be great.”

Among the bike parts included are speedometers, child carriers, wheel rims and brakes. Here are links to the bills for more information:

  • H.R.4937: To extend the temporary suspension of duty on bicycle speedometers.
  • H.R.4938: To extend the temporary suspension of duty on child carriers, chain tension adjusters, chain covers, and certain other articles designed for use on bicycles.
  • H.R.4939: To extend the temporary suspension of duty on unicycles.
  • H.R.4940: To extend the temporary suspension of duty on sets of steel tubing for bicycle frames.
  • H.R.4941: To extend the temporary suspension of duty on bicycle wheel rims.
  • H.R.4942: To extend the temporary suspension of duty on crank-gear and parts thereof.
  • H.R.4943: To extend the temporary suspension of duty on brakes designed for bicycles.
  • H.R.4944: To suspend temporarily the duty on nesoi hubs.
  • H.R.4945: To suspend temporarily the duty on variable speed hubs (except 2- and 3-speed).
  • H.R.4946: To suspend temporarily the duty on bells designed for use on bicycles.

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  • Bjorn January 17, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Jonathan do you have a link to the bills? I am surprised to see brakes listed since there are several US brake makers including Paul from California, maybe it was meant to be brake pads.

    Bjorn

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  • Mmann January 17, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Is it only certain parts, or all bike parts imported? I mean, Shimano alone accounts for a huge percentage of components and expense in most bikes purchased.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 17, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Bjorn,
    thanks for the feedback, I have updated the post with links to all the bills.

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  • SkidMark January 17, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, but it would MURDER the bike industry. It would hurt local builders because they would be paying more for parts. Someone building a high-end bike might prefer a high-end Japanese parts group like Dur-Ace, or Italian like Campagnolo, and they would have to pay even more of a premium. It may make buying a custom frame cost-prohibitive because you would be paying extra for the components you want to use.

    Most American-made bike parts are high-quality and expensive and not affordable by everyone. Doing this would only make affordable bikes more expensive, thus driving them out of the reach of people who need them most, ones that can\’t afford any other form of transportation.

    Crushing out the bottom-end of the bike industry reduces bikes to a \”boutique\” luxury item, that is no way to get more people on bikes.

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  • SkidMark January 17, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Oh crap, nevermind I got it backwards.

    Now I\’m worried about the market being flooded by (even more) cheap crap, although I would not mind paying less for Sugino, and Nitto. Maybe Velocity rims would cost less, too. Hmmm…

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  • Carefull Reader January 17, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    SkidMark,
    Correct me if I\’m wrong, but I think you\’ve got it backwards. The bills look to SUSPEND tariffs, not impose them. This would make imported parts cheaper for American consumers. On the flip side, it would be more difficult for domestic manufacturers to compete.

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  • oh skidmark! January 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    please don\’t take this the wrong way, but man, you seem pretty unhapppy!

    no matter the post, i can always count on you grousing about something!

    i just love how you proved me right by lamenting what you just read, then realizing you had it wrong, but then STILL finding something to be unhappy about!

    however, i do enjoy reading your commments!

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  • Tony Pereira January 17, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    This is a long overdue move. These tariffs are outdated and do not reflect the current reality of the domestic bicycle parts market. US component makers like the above mentioned Paul Components would not be affected by slightly lower prices on foreign made products. They sell a high-end \”boutique\” product that people buy with little regard for price. Almost all the other products covered by these tariffs do not have domestic-made competition, making their existence obsolete. With the sagging dollar foreign made products have become more and more expensive and eliminating these tariffs would help increase profits for re-sellers in the US without hurting any domestic manufacturers. My material costs (steel tubing from Italy) have increased nearly 40% in the last year. A bit of relief would be great.

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  • Torfinn January 17, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    anyone have an expected date on this? I\’m about to build a bike out but would rather wait until this decision is made because I\’m thinking this could drop the price on the bike I\’ve been eyeing by a pretty good little percentage.

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  • Moo January 17, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Maybe some of the local builders and part manufacturers should start reducing some pricing as soon as this is a done deal…otherwise they may be fighting for product and name recognition in the future.

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  • Zach January 17, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Moo, did you read Tony\’s post about how his basic materials cost has risen 40% in the last year? I doubt he\’s been passing this on to his customers.. Why should he pass any \’savings\’ on if the price goes down?

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  • Carl January 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    -Unicycles?
    -Chain covers?
    -Nesoi(?) hubs?
    -Variable speed hubs (not 2 or 3-speed)?!

    If it actually helps domestic manufacturers that\’s cool, but this is the weirdest list of parts ever.

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  • Torfinn January 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Well, frames/brakes/rims are the big money drop I am seeing.

    Local manufacturers are going to have to start selling products overseas to take advantage of the low dollar if they want to remain viable for the time being.

    There\’s no such thing as local anymore it seems the world market is a wild one.

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  • Tony Pereira January 17, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Torfinn, I\’m pretty sure that these tariffs are fractions of cents on the dollar. Don\’t hold up your project. You won\’t see any savings anyway.
    Moo–I hope you\’re kidding. My prices are only going up. Someday I\’m hoping that I can set the thermostat higher than 60 and not have to worry about paying the rent every month. There are loads of inexpensive bikes available to you. Handcrafted, one-of-a-kind goods can not compete on cost.

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  • Moo January 17, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    True Zach, if he\’s in line with all the others, sure he can and should reap the benefits of a cut in the cost of his materials coming in. But with the saqging dollar here and abroad, let\’s get real about opening up the market to us low-end wage earners who would enjoy the use of local builders\’ products…and usually tend to go with the lower priced parts that are at or near the quality of another.

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  • brady January 17, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Ummm, are the people voting on this the same clowns that stripped the bike commuter benefit out of one of the recent transportation bills (after South Carolina\’s (if I have the state right) ridiculed it as \”a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem\”)? If so, I\’m a bit reluctant to get my hopes up that they would bother to help bikers / bike builders… why do that when they could enact some more tax cuts for billionaires?

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  • Mmann January 17, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    brady (#16)

    Call me a hopeless optimist, but this comes directly on the heels of big pow-wows in the Senate and House of Reps, who are reading the writing on the wall about the R-word. When recession hits, tariffs get scrutinized because it\’s an easy way to make the American dollar go further. The big picture, of course, is that import duties are a tax, and cutting them is another tax cut. The questions are A. who benefits from this tax cut, and B. can the federal government afford ANY tax cut right now with a war going on?

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  • Torfinn January 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    @ Tony

    Hrm, I figured these were actually a significant percentage. You\’re probably right though.

    On a side note, that cyclocross bike you built is beautiful.

    Out of my range, but still gorgeous.

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  • brady January 17, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    @Mmann #17: Quite right. Question B) first: this question is irrelevant to W, as he has repeatedly shown. As for question A: not billionaires… so not attractive.

    For the record, I SO hope I am SO wrong on this.

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  • David Feldman January 18, 2008 at 7:43 am

    These tariffs are real dinosaurs; they date back to the 1950\’s when Schwinn wanted to preserve a US bicycle tire/tube source. At the time they sold an entirely US made bike, the coaster brake Schwinn American–Bendix brake, Torrington spokes, Carlisle tires and tubes–and must have been leaning on their own House member to protect their sources.

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  • SkidMark January 18, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Carefull Reader,

    Sorry if I am realistic and consider the bad and the good. I did point out that it would be nice if prices came down on high-end stuff, although Tony thinks not, and he would know way better than me.

    What else do I \”grouse\” about? Let\’s see, I think that motorists should look for and \”see\” bicyclists as part of their basic driving skills, and I think that two motorcycle cops that patrol downtown should stop harassing bike messengers, and get back to giving tickets for moving violations (including bike messengers. How unreasonable of me.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 20, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Is there a still a US source for frame tubing (True Temper)?

    Or is it all now just Italian, British, Chinese?

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  • David Feldman January 21, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Hey, cheapskates, ease up on Tony. There are no fat cats in the bike business. Even the CEO\’s of the biggest bike companies are just so many 7-11 cashiers compared to their peers in other industries. Bicycle equipment costs a bunch because of materials, design, and the relative lack of the economics of scale. Low prices are, unfortunately, usually achieved by stealing the labor of 3rd world manufacturing workers. So shut the F— up about how expensive bikes are, okay?

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  • David Feldman January 21, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Todd, yes, True Temper still makes tubing in the US.

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