IHRSA Gyms Urge EU Commission to Drop U.S. Equipment Tariffs

    IHRSA health and fitness clubs sent a letter to the European Union asking that they reconsider recently imposed tariffs on U.S. exercise equipment.

    In addition to a public health crisis that threatens to close 25% of U.S. health clubs by the end of 2020, new tariffs threaten to further damage a once-thriving fitness industry. On Monday, November 9, the European Union announced they will institute tariffs on imports for an array of American goods, including stationary exercise equipment. The World Trade Organization approved this action after President Trump’s administration imposed tariffs on European exports last year. However, it’s important to note that the EU and the U.S. have spent the last 16 years in a trade dispute.

    Because of the ongoing pandemic and public health crisis, IHRSA sent a formal letter to the European Commission detailing that the new 25% tariff—classified under TARIC 9506.91.10—will actually end up harming the European public.

    In the letter, IHRSA informs the EU Commission that European health and fitness clubs and their employees play a critical role in preserving the mental, physical, and social health of all European citizens. Moreover, exercise equipment is an important factor in helping Europeans maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.

    The health benefits of exercise are well-documented and include:

    • reducing the chances of developing chronic diseases,
    • lessening the risk of contracting non-communicable or communicable diseases (like coronavirus),
    • improving immune health, among many others.
    Letter to EU Re Tariffs Column Width Listing Image

    IHRSA requested that the EU Commission revoke the exercise equipment tariff as a demonstration of goodwill and a positive step forward with the incoming Biden administration. Following the letter to the EU Commission, IHRSA will send a letter with similar points to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Considering how physical activity positively impacts overall health, we will need to work together for the world to win the battle against the coronavirus and keep the public safe.

    Because the health and fitness industry is a crucial piece in that fight—and a vital resource for citizens to maintain their overall health—IHRSA formed the Global Health & Fitness Alliance to help. Currently, the collaboration includes over 40 industry thought leaders from around the world who aim to build a worldwide, unified fitness alliance to serve health and fitness clubs.

    You can download the letter IHRSA sent to the EU Commission as a PDF. We’re also pasting the letter in its entirety below.

    Letter to the EU Commission

    December 3, 2020

    Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis
    Executive Vice-President of the European Commission
    European Commission
    Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200
    1049 Brussels

    RE: European Union Tariffs on U.S. Fitness Equipment

    Dear Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis:

    We are writing on behalf of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) to express our concerns regarding the recently imposed EU tariffs on stationary exercise equipment included under TARIC 9506.91.10. The 25 percent tariff on this equipment imported from the United States is overly punitive at a time when promoting physical health should be of paramount importance as we work together to fight the current pandemic.

    European health and fitness clubs, including 1,115 IHRSA members, and their millions of employees across the EU are focused on playing a critical role in maintaining the mental, physical, and social health of all European citizens. Evidence shows that physically active lifestyles can improve immune system health and diminish the risk of contracting some communicable diseases, including upper respiratory tract infections typically suffered by coronavirus patients.

    In fact, an EU study on the connection between lifestyle factors and COVID-19 has shown that obesity and decreased physical activity are linked to a higher risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19. Health and fitness clubs, through the promotion of mental and physical health, are an integral part of the solution to returning citizens to a state of good health. The exercise equipment cited above is crucial to achieving this important objective.

    We are well aware of the underlying trade tensions between the EU and the U.S. which have led to these punitive tariffs, and we also understand that the European Commission seeks to resolve these tensions amicably as soon as possible. We are also hopeful that a new Administration in the United States will be receptive to reopening a positive dialogue to resolve this impasse quickly.

    However, with bilateral negotiations in this broader dispute unlikely to resume in earnest for several months, we ask that the Commission take the positive step of revoking these specific tariffs immediately for the good health of the EU and all its citizens in this time of health crisis.

    We look forward to working with you in any way that we can to achieve a positive outcome in this regrettable trade dispute. Thank you for your consideration.


    Brent Darden
    IHRSA Interim President & CEO

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    Sami Smith

    Sami Smith is IHRSA's Senior Manager of Digital Communications, working to shape the organization's image on various digital platforms. On a typical day, she creates content, delivers impactful communications, and executes targeted marketing efforts to keep IHRSA at the forefront of the industry. Outside of the office, you can find her exploring new destinations, indulging in food, or participating in just about any sport.