Made in the U.S.A. FTC ruling: If it's labeled as such it has to be, but what about products not labeled?

December 05, 1997

NO FIREWORKS, please, to celebrate the Federal Trade Commission decision not to reduce the standard for labeling goods "Made in the U.S.A." The patriotic ruling may stop some companies considering the relocation of their plants to a country where production costs are lower. But the availability of cheap labor will still mean more to many U.S. manufacturers than being able to stamp their products American.

Ten or 15 years ago, such companies might have feared antagonizing U.S. consumers whose consciousness had been raised about foreign products costing American jobs. While Americans in general still may prefer domestically made goods, the fact that homemade goods today include foreign product names like Nissan, Mercedes, Sony, Hitachi and others has changed the situation. People don't feel as guilty about not buying American.

Then, too, a lot of times they don't know what's American. Because many goods aren't labeled, consumers have discovered the car with an American name that they purchased was actually made overseas with foreign parts. They don't mind if it reduced the price of the car. They may express shock at stories of Asian workers being exploited to produce tennis shoes for Americans. But not shocked enough to explode sales of U.S. Keds.

The FTC has decided it should be as tough as it ever was to meet the "Made in U.S.A." standard. Affected products must be at least 98-percent American-made to qualify for the U.S.A. label. The ruling satisfies unions and companies that fear relaxing the 50-year-old standard might send more work and jobs overseas. What the buy-U.S.A. manufacturers have to worry about, though, is how many people still look for the U.S.A. label before they buy.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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