One significant result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that U.S. consumers have become more interested in buying American-made products. Recent polling shows that 40 percent of all consumers will no longer buy anything made in China. This is good news for America’s manufacturers since the poll also found that nearly 80 percent of consumers would be willing to pay more in order to see production move from China back to the United States.
Clearly, Americans want to buy products stamped “Made in America.” Unfortunately, Amazon, Walmart, and other large online retailers are currently trying to block legislation that would make these shopping choices easier.
Last year, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation known as the COOL Online Act. Baldwin’s bill would mandate prominent labeling of country-of-origin and seller location for all products sold on the internet. Such product descriptions could help Americans find out exactly what they’re buying online and from whom, particularly if they’re hoping to buy American-made goods—or avoid purchasing products made in China.
Requiring country-of-origin labeling should be a no-brainer, since current U.S. law only mandates that a product’s external packaging display its place of origin. At present, however, e-commerce websites often don’t include country-of-origin information—since labeling laws were written before the advent of online shopping.
Baldwin’s bill easily passed a Senate committee last month with bipartisan support. Now, however, an assortment of large online retailers represented by the National Retail Federation and Amazon are actively trying to block Baldwin’s COOL Act from being included in wider Senate legislation.
Why would these importers oppose efforts to stamp a clear “Made in China” or “Made in USA” label on product listings? Because they continue to rake in record profits by selling a multitude of cheap goods from Chinese factories. It’s estimated that 75 percent of all new goods being sold on Amazon come from China. And so, China provides a massive source of annual profit for importers of consumer goods.
Americans are rightly concerned about unsafe imports from China, though — including everything from tainted pet food to toxic toys. And consumers have certainly taken note of recent headlines, including Amazon’s liability for exploding NutriBullet blenders and defective Hoverboards — both made in China.
Even though Chinese manufacturers continue to crank out a steady stream of shoddy products, Amazon and other online retailers have shown no interest in redirecting sales toward safer, American-made alternatives. Instead, they simply want to continue the profitable status quo.
A coalition of domestic U.S. manufacturers is fighting back, however. They’ve sent a letter to Congress urging support for country-of-origin labeling. As their letter explained, the group of online retailers trying to prevent the COOL Online Act from becoming law “undermines the actions of policymakers on both sides of the aisle. More importantly, it harms millions of American consumers who want to know where the products they buy are made.”
Congress must fight to ensure that America’s families know exactly what they’re buying online with their hard-earned money. Both the House and Senate should support country-of-origin labeling for all e-commerce transactions. Anything less could potentially put American lives at risk.
James A. Stuber is Co-Chair of the Coalition for a Prosperous America’s (CPA) Buy America Committee and the author of ‘What If Things Were Made in America Again.’