Defining Made in America


The following originally appeared on The Made in the USA Challenge.

What does “Made in America” really mean? The regulations concerning labeling of products “made in USA” are confusing at best. When you are checking labeling for country of origin, you have probably come across terms like “assembled in the USA” “distributed in USA” or “made in USA of foreign components.” The uncertainty of these claims, as well conflicted public feeling about products partially made in the USA has made buying made in America seem even more difficult.

Here is the rundown on the fine print. The rules that qualify a product for an official “made in USA” label are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC relies on a definition that a made in USA product be made of ” all or virtually all ” components made in America. The factors for qualifying American made claims include the percentage of manufacturing costs incurred in the US, how far removed any foreign components are from the finished product, and the site of final assembly. The FTC publication on complying with the made in USA standard suggests a minimum of 75% of total manufacturing costs be incurred in the USA for a credible made in America label. The Buy American Act defines a product as made in America for the purposes of government procurement if it is comprised of at least 50% American made components.

Trying to make sense of these vague standards is a challenge. One solution posed is having third party certifications. Made in USA Certified performs audits of the full supply chain of a product. If the product is found to be completely made in America, it is awarded the “made in USA certified” seal for use on it’s products. To try to determine where a product was made yourself, look for the terms “manufactured in USA” and “made in USA.” “Distributed by” does not give any indication of where the product was made. The only products required to disclosure country of origin are automobiles, textiles, wool and fur. These items are issued a registered identification number (or RN number). You can enter this number into the RN Search Tool to see if country of origin information is available for your item. Lastly, you can call the company’s number and ask where a product was made.

When the country of origin is clear, there is still the issue of what you consider to be really American made. Some who support the made in America movement only look to purchase from companies manufacturing all their products in the US of 100% American made components. Others take a more lax approach, supporting companies that manage to make a majority of their products in America, or use foreign components in products manufactured in America.

The vast majority of American companies rely on 100% outsourcing for the manufacturing of their products, so I feel that any company that strives to keep jobs in America by producing products in the US is worthy of our support . Manufacturing exclusively in the US poses a financial burden to corporations, and the barriers faced and steps made to overcome these obstacles are at the heart of the made in America movement’s story. If we support corporations making even a portion of their products in America, we are helping to support their efforts to move manufacturing back to the US and produce American made products .

How do you define a product made in USA? Do you try to buy from companies manufacturing exclusively in America? How do you decide if a company’s efforts to manufacture in America are legitimate? What does an American made product mean to you?

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