Some military resale experts warn that a proposal to ban the sale of Chinese-made products at military exchanges and commissars would be “devastating”, especially for exchanges.
The proposal, an amendment introduced by Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., was approved by the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
“We cannot in good conscience fill postal exchanges with products created with slave labor and sponsored by and financially benefiting the authoritarian regime of the Chinese Communist Party,” Green said while tagging the bill on the fiscal year 2023 defense policy. Furthermore, he said, “The Chinese Communist Party thinks it can steal our military technology without consequence. We have to show them that is not the case.
“The last thing we want to do is contribute financially to their tyranny. They don’t care that American soldiers are financing their plans by filling the shelves of our PXs and BXs with their products.
The proposal would ban the sale of goods in stores and exchanges that are made in China, assembled in China, or imported into the United States from China.
At least half of the products sold on the exchanges, if not more, are made in China, noted Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif. While the idea of banning these products “sounds good and is patriotic,” he said, “it would have a negative effect on our military families.” That would mean they would have to go to shops in the civilian community to find the goods they rely on that would no longer be sold on exchanges, he said.
The ban would only affect military stores, not civilian community stores. If a ban on made-in-China products were to apply to civilian out-of-the-gate retailers, industry figures indicate it would likely affect 80% to 90% of all retail products sold, Courtney said. Williams, spokesman for the Navy Exchange Service Command.
Walmart spokesman Payton McCormick said nearly two-thirds of products Walmart sells in the United States are manufactured, grown or assembled domestically. The company does not break out sourcing data by country, but Walmart sources from many countries around the world.
It is unclear whether the proposed legislation would ban any part of an item made in China – or only products made entirely in China.
Navy Exchanges “would face a 50% impact on direct retail sales, strictly on these banned products alone,” Williams said. But on top of this impact, there would likely be a much higher percentage loss as the absence of these products would mean fewer customers.
Sometimes there is simply no acceptable alternative to products made in China. The lack of alternatives would also mean the potential removal of entire categories of items from exchanges, not just one brand, Williams said.
“As a retailer, we offer customers the freedom of choice to buy the goods they want or need, and not every product our customers want is available from an American manufacturer. The NEX serves a wide variety of military customers and we work very hard to provide a selection of merchandise that appeals to that broad customer base,” Williams said.
“This practice of [lawmakers] doing to trade and troops what they don’t have the will or the votes to do to citizens at large must stop,” said Steve Rossetti, president of the American Logistics Association, an association representing companies that supply products to military stores. .
The impact this proposal would have on military exchanges “isn’t significant, it’s devastating,” Rossetti said. “We should feed this golden goose instead of killing it.”
Representative Kai Kahele, D-Hawaii, and others said they support the concept of buying American products, but are concerned about the impact on stores, especially moving so quickly. Kahele said the move will negatively affect military families who rely on the benefit to purchase everyday household items, especially those in remote locations where supply chain issues already exist.
“I think that would put our commissioners and our exchanges at risk,” he said. “I’m all about buying American, but I don’t think we can flip the switch overnight.”
Representative Adam Smith, D-Washington, chairman of the committee, described the concept as “unfeasible” given the number of products made in China, “although I am not indifferent to the sentiment behind it.”
It’s unclear what impact the proposal would have on commissioners, although it would affect all over-the-counter health items from China, Rossetti said.
At Navy Exchanges, the ban would affect all products, especially clothing, footwear and baby items like strollers; housewares and home products made by Ninja, Cuisinart, Shark, Bissell, iRobot and Calphalon; household appliances such as washers, dryers and refrigerators; Samsung entertainment electronics; Apple computers and phones; video game consoles by PlayStation and Xbox; bicycles and fitness equipment from Schwinn and Nordic Trak; and seasonal products like Christmas trees and Halloween costumes.
Navy Exchanges, like other exchange systems, seek to provide quality goods and services at lower cost to service members and their families. “Whenever possible, the NEX buys American-made products,” Williams said. “In fact, 40% of our Navy Pride products are purchased or assembled in America.”
The proposal will now have to be considered by the Plenary as part of the 2023 Authorization Bill. The House and Senate are expected to pass their separate Authorization Bills sometime next month. They will then negotiate a compromise authorization bill.
“I would say it’s not that hard to stock our PX shelves with made-in-the-USA products,” said Rep. Mike Walz, R-Fla. “President Biden has proposed a Buy American provision. … If the DoD is to lead the way and be a little tougher, then let’s do it.
“I would bet they could go without T-shirts, socks or other items if they knew we had to stop funding our opponent,” he said.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for over 30 years, and co-authored a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families”. She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Florida and Athens, Georgia.