Nike versus New Balance: Trade Policy in a World of Global Value Chains: Abstract
This case provides a vehicle for analysing strategic, contextual, and ethical challenges underlying modern trade negotiations.
In 2013, Michael Froman, the newly appointed United States Trade Representative, was responsible for leading the U.S. negotiating team in the formulation of the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). During the negotiations, Froman had to adopt a position on the sensitive issue of tariffs on imported footwear. On the one hand, Vietnam, a TPP member country, was America’s second largest foreign footwear supplier and was pushing for the elimination of tariffs. On the other hand, U.S. labour unions argued that Vietnam’s strength in the footwear industry was based on unfair subsidies and labour practices. Even among U.S. footwear companies, there was disagreement. New Balance, the only U.S. athletic footwear company that produced parts of its shoes in the U.S., was openly opposed to the elimination of tariffs, as their removal could lead to factory closures in the U.S. Nike Inc., however, manufactured all its shoes overseas and was an overt proponent of the abolition of tariffs.
Froman had to carefully weigh the arguments of all the stakeholders to determine whether or not to accept the lowering of tariffs on footwear imported from Vietnam and, if he accepted, whether or not to impose conditions on Vietnam.
Teaching notes are available for professors. Contact the HEC Montréal Case Centre.