What does ‘Made in the USA’ mean, anyway?

Made in USA Stamp

Source: What does ‘Made in the USA’ mean, anyway?, clarionledger.com

As you read this, look around at the products near you. Chances are, many of them were made outside the United States. On my desk is a videotape, made in Japan. A coffee cup says “China” on the bottom, and a three-ring binder comes from Mexico. The global economy is a reality, and it’s sometimes difficult to truthfully claim your product originates in the U.S.

Consumer Reports noted in 2013 that nearly eight in 10 Americans would choose an American-made product over the same product that had been made abroad, so it’s no wonder why companies would want to make this claim. Increasing numbers of companies are jumping on this bandwagon, and although most such claims are honest, some are not.

The “Made in USA” issue has even become part of national politics. On Tuesday, President Trump visited the Kenosha, Wisconsin, headquarters of Snap-On Tools to sign an executive order on a new policy called “Buy American, Hire American.” The order includes instructions requiring federal agencies to review purchasing procedures to ensure American companies are prioritized when purchasing goods and services.

To claim something is “Made in the USA” has for years been a serious matter and can get companies in hot water with federal officials and watchdog agencies if not used correctly. The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for enforcing “Made in USA” policies and just this week announced the closure of two recent cases in which companies had made “Made in USA” claims. In the first, Georgia-based iSpring Water Systems settled charges it had deceived customers by claiming U.S. origins for its products, when in fact (the agency alleged), the company’s water filtration systems were imported and composed mostly of foreign-made components.

In the second case, Texas-based Block Division Inc., which sold pulley block systems, was accused of claiming their products had been made in the USA, and even had metal plates stamped “Made in USA” imported from overseas. The company’s products, the FTC alleged, included “significant imported parts that are essential to their function.”

According to an Associated Press-GfK poll. the vast majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled “Made in the USA.” Wochit

It’s sometimes difficult to say where all the parts to something were made. Even some products that look deceptively simple are not. For example, a simple, painted wooden toy might seem easy to examine; the wood components can probably be easily traced, but what about the paint? The fasteners? And for electronic products, the issues multiply exponentially. For example, a typical computer might have parts from dozens of countries.

 Because the “origin” question can lead to one rabbit hole after another (making it exceedingly difficult to say exactly where a product was made), the standard for evaluating “Made in the USA” claims requires that “all or virtually all the product” has been made in the U.S. All “significant” parts, processing and labor that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. That guideline would apply to any product being sold with a “Made in USA” label or claim (other than automobiles, textiles and wool products, which have their own specific standards.)
So, if you’re looking to buy American, here are a few things you might want to consider (from various sources, including www.themadeinamericamovement.com):
  • Read the labels carefully. Keep in mind that “Made in America” does not necessarily mean “Made in the USA.” Some products may contain this wording, while the products actually could come from Canada or Mexico.
  • Know the difference between “made” vs. “assembled.” Some products may say honestly that they were assembled in the U.S. instead of being manufactured here.
  • Be careful of flags. Patriotic Americans might buy a product that had an American flag on the label, and marketers know that. It could be a ruse to get you to think the product was made domestically. Look for a “Made in USA” label in addition to the flag.
  • Shop wisely. There are many websites that list companies making products in the United States. That’s fine, but such lists may be inaccurate, out of date or deceptive. Dealing with local merchants you trust is often a good hedge against deception.

To find out more about “Made in the USA” guidelines, visit https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/tools-consumers/made-usa.

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