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US retail group criticizes proposed tariff hike on European clothes, accessories

The American Apparel and Footwear Association is opposing a proposed tariff hike on clothing imports from the U.K. and the expansion of tariffs to textiles and handbags from Europe, saying the move would hurt local workers as well as consumers.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer, the group said that while the apparel industry agrees on the U.S. government's objective to eliminate illegal subsidies for aircraft manufacturer Airbus SE, it does not believe imposing taxes on U.S. imports of clothes, textiles and accessories will accomplish that goal.

"The current punitive taxes have done nothing to date to change Europe's behavior. The expansion of those punitive taxes to more of our products will do nothing to change Europe's behavior. Why? Because our industry has nothing to do with civil aircraft subsidies," the American Apparel and Footwear Association wrote.

The group said the proposed tariffs would lead to higher prices, which could then result in lower sales and fewer jobs.

The organization said Europe has already retaliated against imports of U.S.-made jeans and other U.S.-made clothing and threatened further retaliation against U.S.-made shoes due to a dispute on steel and aluminum, which it said also has nothing to do with the manufacturing industry.

It added that it will be the U.S. manufacturers who will suffer as they would have to face new punitive taxes on their inputs and when they sell their final product.