Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) expressed his support for both remote sales tax legislation and for the continuation of duty-free jewelry imports from India and Thailand.
Rangel presented his views on issues affecting the jewelry industry Sunday prior to the opening of the JA New York Summer Show. Rangel is chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade and tax legislation. Rangel spoke outside the exhibition floor just prior to show and earlier to a handful of industry leaders.
Congress is currently working on legislation (“Sales Tax Fairness and Simplification Act,”) that would require remote merchants—including online and catalog companies—to collect sales tax on transactions conducted with out-of-state purchasers. Jewelers of America is supporting the bill. Rangel says he also supports this legislation because it subjects Internet retailers to the same state taxes that other retailers have to pay, and because he sees it as a way to create jobs in the community.
“I’m all about jobs,” he said during the private session. Outside the show floor he added that this legislation will “make it possible for retailers to play on a level playing field.
In June, the Bush administration imposed a 5.5 percent tariff on jewelry imports from India and Thailand. These two countries were previously covered under U.S. Generalized System of Preferences, designed to help economic growth in developing countries by eliminating import tariffs. Prior to this change in the GSP, India and Thailand imported their jewelry duty free. JA lobbied against the move.
Rangel said in the private session that the change in the GSP is the Bush administration’s way of punishing the two countries, although he wasn’t clear on why they were being punished. He added that this is typically how the administration administers its foreign policy clout, which at times even going against its own stated beliefs.
“If they say they are for free and open trade, then let’s do it,” he said.
Outside the exhibition hall, he expressed a view that this decision hurts U.S. citizens whose livelihoods are based on trade with these countries.
“When it comes to trade, we should not make policy based on politics, but on what is best for the American people,” he said.
Rangel also encouraged individuals in the jewelry industry to be more involved in the issues that affect the industry.
“The best job you can do is to know the name of the congressman who represents where you live and work,” he said.