What Does Made in the USA Really Mean?

What Does Made in the USA Really Mean?

President Trump has brought several issues to center stage. One of them is American manufacturing. In his pledge to "Make America Great Again", he encourages folks to Buy American and Hire American. He also hopes to further revive American manufacturing through fairer trade deals.

So, what does all this mean for us? Well, that's completely up to us as individuals. Is American patriotism important to you? Do you want to know that the manufacturing and processing of your household and personal items created an American job or two? If so, let's talk "Made in the USA". This is a prominent label displayed on countless products, from textiles, to food, to furniture, to cars.

But, does it really mean what we think it means?

What Does Made in the USA Really Mean?

Let's get straight to it. Made in the USA means the product must contain parts that are "all or virtually all" made in the US. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in charge of protecting this standard. In the end, a product can't just be assembled in the US. It must also be made from parts that were created in the US.

What Does All or Virtually All Indicate?

"All or virtually all" means that all significant parts and processing must be USA-made. The FTC states that the product should contain only a negligible amount of foreign product, if none at all. Are you still wondering what that means? We did, too. The FTC posted a helpful scenario on their website.

They used the example of a company that produces propane barbecues in Nevada. The main components of a propane grill are:

  • the gas valves
  • the burners
  • the aluminum housing

In this scenario, each of those parts were made in the US. However, the grill's knobs and tubes were imported from Mexico.

The FTC cites the knobs and tubes as a negligible portion of the product's cost of manufacturing. It also considers the parts to be insignificant when compared to the overall product. Let's look at a couple other industry standards.

image of a Mercedes convertible

The Automobile Industry

For an automobile manufacturer to claim that its cars are made in the USA, at least two things are required:

  • It must be assembled in the US.
  • 70% of its parts must be made in the US.
  • Let's look at the textile industry.

The Textile Industry

Textiles only need to be cut or sown in the US. While the fabric must be made in the US, the fiber can come from anywhere; the yarn can be spun anywhere.

What About Other Industries?

According to the FTC, other products sold in the US don't have to be labeled as American-made. They're also not required to disclose how much of their product was made with US parts. This is a good lesson for all of us. If we want to follow a "Made in America" lifestyle, we're going to need to see a list of every product's parts and their countries of origin. Some companies are completely transparent about this; others are not. Some companies are completely transparent about this; others are not.

How Do We Know If Companies Are Telling the Truth?

Short answer? We don't. The FTC doesn't review and authorize every company who puts the American-made stamp of approval on their items. They only get involved if they've received a complaint and must investigate the company. This leaves a lot of the onus on the consumer. Like anything else, when first committing to a new lifestyle, it may take a little extra effort.

Fun Fact About the Government's Spending

In 1933, President Hoover signed the Buy American Act. This means that the United States government must purchase American-made goods.

That sounds impossible, right? Probably because it is. By indicating the government must purchase American-made goods, that means more than 50% of each item's parts must be American-made.

How Do We Make Sense of These Murky Waters?

It's tough, right? Just because we're making a new lifestyle choice doesn't mean we want to feel encumbered by every purchase we make.

Many third parties out there have compiled indexes and lists to provide a clearer picture. Let's take a look at some of the popular ones.

The Made In America Auto Index

American University publishes an annual Made in America Auto Index. It's compiled by Associate Professor Frank DuBois, an expert in global supply chain management. The highest ranked vehicles are the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, and GMC Acadia. Ford enters the list next with its F150 model.

image of an old sign "American"

The USA Love List

This company's mission is to tell you about products that are made in the US and make it easy for you to find them. Their tagline is, "Stuff We Love: Made in the USA". You can click here to find an extensive list of every brand they've ever mentioned. They'll direct you to detailed information about the product as well as any related articles. Not everything listed there is 100% made in America. But it's going to offer helpful advice regarding your desire to buy American. They have, however, compiled other lists that pertain to American-made products only. Are you in the market for a new piece of office furniture? Then, take a look at this list if you're looking to buy American.

The Made in America Movement

The Made in America Movement (MAM) highlights 20,000 American companies and is made up of 440,000 consumers. They're a non-partisan organization that promotes American businesses. They want to see overseas manufacturing jobs come back to the US. Their resources are endless. They've compiled an organized list of companies who produce American-made products. It's divided into 25 categories such as automotive, baby, beauty, clothing, electronics, home goods, jewelry, and more.

Manufacturing Requirements

As we can see, manufacturing requirements are endless and varied, depending on what each company is trying to accomplish.

Here at United Global Sourcing, we allow you to relax, knowing your manufacturing requirements are being met and exceeded. For over 35 years, companies have relied on us to take the hassle out of their supply-chain management. Whatever your needs, product concept, prototyping, production, we've got you covered. Tell us about your services so we can begin our new working relationship today!