The Australian Government has revoked a 5% tariff concession order (TCO) on the importation of acetate frames.
The revocation is back-dated to 13 May 2022, meaning importers may be charged the full tariff on imported plastic eyewear that has left its place of manufacture since that date.
TCOs are put in place by the Australian Government when there are no known Australian manufacturers of goods that are substitutable for imported goods. There are currently 15,000 existing TCOs in Australia.
There are currently very few Australian manufacturers of eyewear distributing to optometry practices. One is Optex Australia, based in Port Macquarie, which is owned by Greg French. This was formerly the business known as Clive and Wally, which was placed in voluntary liquidation in December 2017. Another is Ven Eyes, a start-up owned by Josephine Roufaiel, which produces 3D printed eyewear to order. Then there is Dresden, which manufactures eyewear from recycled and recyclable materials in Sydney, for sale in its own stores. There are also artisan eyewear makers including Coombs, Brendan O’Keefe frames and Fritz Frames.
TCOs have been applied to parts for metal and plastic sunglass frames, sunglass spectacle frames, protective and wrap around safety eyewear, and goggles eyewear in Australia since 1994. The decision to revoke the tariff applied to plastic frames came as a complete surprise the industry.
As Jacque Katsieris from ProOptics commented, “While it is fabulous to have a manufacturer of eyewear in Australia, demand cannot be met by one local manufacturer alone; we will always need to continue importing.
“Revocation of the tariff concession, at a time when we are seeing inflation throughout the economy, will only make it harder for importers and retailers alike, to maintain a sustainable business.”
Aaron McColl from Aaron’s Eyewear agreed. “The revocation adds 5% to the cost of all plastic frames we import so we need to look at reflecting that cost increase in our pricing or absorb it, both of which are difficult decisions in the current economic climate. The fact that this import duty is now being forced upon us due to someone in our industry instigating the revocation request with Border Force is outrageous and downright appalling to say the least. What do they think they are achieving by increasing their competitors’ costs by 5%?
“What the revocation does not acknowledge, amongst other things like limited capacity to manufacture, is that plastics aren’t all the same – we have TR90, 3D printed extruded plastics, cellulose acetate, injection moulded plastics, others still, …. most of which – apart from cellulous acetate and 3D printed extruded plastics – are not used in Australian manufacturing to my knowledge.”
Optex Australia and the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association of Australia have been contacted for comment.