Lower retail shoe prices may be the bright side of President Reagan's recent decision to drop import quotas on shoes. The darker side is underlined by mounting protests that the move will seriously affect US manufacturers and cost thousands of workers their jobs.
Contrary to the recommendations of the shoe industry, unions, and members of Congress from shoe-producing states, Mr. Reagan refused to extend import quotas on shoes from Taiwan and South Korea. The quotas, limiting the numbers of foreign- made shoes entering the American market, have been in place for four years. The presidential decision, urged unaminously by White House trade policy advisers, was in line with administration commitments to free trade.
David R. Gergen, a White House spokesman, said that the President "is dedicated to removing as many barriers as possible in the context of fair and free trade."
Mr. Gergen added that dropping the shoe quotas will made more lower-priced shoes available for American consumers and help fight inflationary pressures.
The decision to end quotas brought a quick and angry reaction from unions, already suffering from high unemployment in the domestic shoe industry.
Murray Finley, president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Union, deplored the timing of the p residential order.
"This will cause further job losses for American shoe workers in an industry with more than 15 percent unemployed," Mr. Finley, president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Union, deplored the timing of the presidential order.
"This will cause further job losses for American shoe workers in an industry with more than 15 percent unemployed," mr. Finley said in new york.
The industry, which had more than 150,000 on its payrolls in the 1970s, now employs only 127,000 Arnold Hyatt, chairman of the American Footwear Industries Association of 200 US manufacturers, predicted that "a flood of imports from Taiwan and South Korea, as well as from other countries" could have a serious impact on smaller domestic companies.
Many companies, he said, face a loss of "portions of their current market, reducting their overall ability to compete."
Larger manufacturers, such as the United States Shoe Corporation, are less likely to hurt. They produce higher-priced, styled footwear, sellling of from $ 25 a pair to $75 or more. Taiwanese and south Korean shoes are not competitve in the quality shoe market.