Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A good new idea on buying American: Better labels

Alan Uke, a San Diego manufacturer of scuba diving gear, calls our trade policy "a football game in which they tackle and we don't." He's written a new book, "Buying America Back," that has some good ideas about promoting American manufacturing.

Uke, for example, thinks we need to label imported goods better. Current country-of-origin labels are deceptive. A "Made in America" label might be attached to a product that's only partly made in America. He suggests we use labels indicating what percent of a product was made in America, so we could choose the 80 percent made-in-America coffeemaker over the 52 percent made-in-America coffeemaker.

Uke also has an idea for a way consumers can buy more products from countries that trade fairly with us. He argues that goods made overseas be labeled with a trade ratio. That's the difference between what a country buys and sells from us. S. Korea has a 79 percent trade ratio with America because S. Koreans spend 79 cents here for every dollar we buy there. China spends 25 cents here for every dollar we buy there. If televisions were labeled with trade ratios, we're quite certain Teamsters would be taking that Daewoo TV set to the cash register. No Shenzhen sweatshop products for us!

We love, by the way, how the interviewer on the video asks Uke if he's asking consumers to put value judgments on what they buy.