In one week, the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics will mark the start of the summer games. Congress has embraced the Olympic spirit in the only way it knows how: legislation. Sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the Team USA Made in America Act of 2012 requires the United States Olympic Committee “to purchase or otherwise obtain only uniforms” that meet the standards of the Federal Trade Commission for labeling as `Made in USA’. The Team USA MIA Act further defines uniform to include accessories, such as ties, belts, shoes, and hats.
To understand the labeling standard, we turn to the Federal Trade Commission’s Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims, which provides industry guidance on the use of “Made in USA” claims in advertising and labeling.
Based on its review of the traditional use of the term “Made in USA,” and the record as a whole, the Commission concludes that consumers are likely to understand an unqualified U.S. origin claim to mean that the advertised product is “all or virtually all” made in the United States. Therefore, when a marketer makes an unqualified claim that a product is “Made in USA,” it should, at the time the representation is made, possess and rely upon a reasonable basis that the product is in fact all or virtually all made in the United States.
A product that is all or virtually all made in the United States will ordinarily be one in which all significant parts and processing that go into the product are of U.S. origin. In other words, where a product is labeled or otherwise advertised with an unqualified “Made in USA” claim, it should contain only a de minimis, or negligible, amount of foreign content. Although there is no single “bright line” to establish when a product is or is not “all or virtually all” made in the United States, there are a number of factors that the Commission will look to in making this determination. To begin with, in order for a product to be considered “all or virtually all” made in the United States, the final assembly or processing of the product must take place in the United States. Beyond this minimum threshold, the Commission will consider other factors, including but not limited to the portion of the product’s total manufacturing costs that are attributable to U.S. parts and processing; and how far removed from the finished product any foreign content is.
Of course, any good law has its great loopholes.
First, the United States Olympic Committee can duck the regulations by making “publicly available a detailed justification of the reasons” the uniforms do not meet the “Made in USA” requirements.
Secondly, the Made in USA rules only apply to uniforms worn by athletes during ceremonies that are part of the Olympic Games. In other words, the Act is largely symbolic in that it only governs the non-competitive portions of the Olympic Games. What could make America prouder than to have American athletes performing at the highest levels while wearing American uniforms and using American sports equipment? I sense a real missed opportunity here.
Finally, if Congress was really serious, it would apply the Made in America rule to the Team USA sponsors. After all, how misleading is a Team USA moniker when the organization is funded by foreign companies?