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‘Made In Usa’ May Not Be Entirely True Some Manufacturers Want Percentage Of Foreign Parts

Sat., Aug. 9, 1997

Time is running out for Americans who want to tell the Federal Trade Commission whether products labeled “Made in USA” should be allowed to contain some foreign parts.

Monday is the commission’s deadline for accepting comments on its proposal to let products with non-American components qualify for that label - a suggested change that has drawn fire on Capitol Hill.

“‘Made in USA’ should mean ‘made in USA,”’ said Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “People want to know that those labels are accurate.”

Brown on Friday delivered to the FTC a stack of petitions signed by 8,000 people opposing any change.

In announcing its proposal earlier this year, the commission said it wanted to make sure that American manufacturers had enough flexibility to compete globally but wanted to ensure consumers were not deceived by “Made in USA” labels.

Under current rules, companies cannot make that claim if a product has more than a minute amount of foreign content.

The proposed changes would allow a product to be called “Made in USA” if U.S. manufacturing costs constitute at least 75 percent of the total manufacturing costs and if the product was assembled in the United States.

The FTC also proposed allowing labels that give more information about products of mixed origin, such as “U.S. Content: 60%” or “Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts.”

The proposed guidelines do not cover automobiles, wool, fur or textiles. The Rubber and Plastic Footware Manufacturers Association said it favored a 70 percent American level.

“In order to survive as a domestic industry in competition with low-wage foreign producers, it is essential to import one or more components,” that group wrote. “The 75 percent figure is unrealistically high.”

Attorneys general of Connecticut, California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin jointly asked that the “Made in USA” label be allowed only on products with at least 90 percent U.S. content.

“Any lower standard would unreasonably dilute this long-standing symbol of American pride and craftsmanship,” they wrote.

Organized labor weighed in on the side of no change.

Furniture workers’ representatives said that giving more leeway to manufacturers would “perpetuate a fraud on the American public and open even wider the door to U.S. jobs being moved overseas.”


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