Labor and management representatives of the American shoe industry yesterday urged President Carter to approve the International Trade Commission's recommendation that a combination of tariffs and quotas be imposed on non-rubber imported footwear.
"Jobs are what it's all about," said Ronald Ansin, a director of the American Footwear Industries Association and owner of three shoe factories in New England. Industry spokesmen estimate that the domestic shoe industry has lost 70,000 jobs over the past nine years because of the impact of inexpensive foreign imports.
The ITC's recommendation, which was sent to the President Feb. 8, marks the second time in a year the ITC has found that the U.S. shoe industry has been injured by imports.
In April of last year, President Ford decided against imposing higher tariffs or other import limitations after an ITC finding of injury to the shoe industry. At that time, there was no majority agreement on the ITC for a particular remedy. Mr. Ford chose to provide "adjustment assistance," or federal aid in addition to unemployment benefits to people who lost jobs in the domestic shoe industry.
Harold Berk of Songo Shoe Manufacturing Co. in Portland, Maine, called adjustment assistance "a Catch 22. If you're eligible, you're generally too ill to be made well again."
General president of the United Shoe Workers of America George O. Fecteau called adjustment assistance "a cosmetic. Some workers have gone it for a year and haven't gotten any training. And if they had, where would they get a job?" Many of the affected shoe manufacturing plants are in rural areas where alternative employment opportunities are limited.
In this case, a majority of the ITC agreed on the recommended remedy of tariff quotas, in which higher tariffs are imposed on imports over a certain level. The industry would prefer to see straight quotas, or limitations, on the number of imports permitted.
Since a majority of the ITC agreed on the recommended remedy, President Carter must either agree or disagree with the recommendation. He cannot amend it.
The decision that faces President Carter, which he must make by April 9, is not merely one of encouraging domestic employment. It will be the new administration's first decision on international trade and as such, a spokesman at the Washington office of the European Community Delegation said, "we are watching it. In a way, it is an indication" of how the Carter administration will balanced pressures for trade limitations against free market desires.
A White House spokeswoman indicated that at thhis time it is not known when President Carter will make his decision on the ITC recommendations.