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Senate Passes Bill Requiring Labeling of Local, Foreign Part Percentage

August 4, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Car buyers seeking clues on whether a vehicle is made in America would get some assistance from legislation passed Tuesday by the Senate.

The measure would require that each new car sold in the United States list where the auto was assembled and where the parts are from, specifying the percentage of parts from America and elsewhere. The label would have to list up to two foreign countries that each supplied at least 15 percent of the car’s content.

″This legislation doesn’t bash any country. It simply helps people make an informed choice,″ said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., the bill’s sponsor.

″Right now if you want to buy an American car, you can’t tell by the nameplate where it’s been made or how much American parts it has in it,″ Mikulski said. Consumers, she said, need the information to ″practice pocketbook patriotism.″

The Senate approved the measure on a voice vote as an amendment to the transportation budget bill, which has not yet been approved. The House has passed a transportation budget bill, but it does not include a similar provision on labeling. Conferees eventually will resolve the differences.

Determining a car’s country of origin is no longer as simple as it once was thanks to joint ventures between automakers and ″transplants,″ foreign makers who build their cars in the United States.

Alan Reuther, legislative director of the United Auto Workers, applauded the Senate action, saying the measure would eliminate consumer confusion while avoiding controversial import restrictions.

″It just says, ’Here’s some information,‴ he said. ″And we think it’s information a lot of consumers will want to have.″

Reuther said the labels could save American jobs.

″We believe that if consumers are given this information more will buy American,″ he said.

Paul Donnellan, director of congressional relations for the American International Automobile Dealers Association, said that strategy could fail and the United States could see retaliatory moves by other countries.

″We stand to lose a great deal if other countries adopt this ‘buy local’ legislation,″ Donnellan said. ″How is this going to help exports and clean up the U.S. trade deficit if other countries discourage goods with foreign content as this bill would?″

Nearly identical cars with different optional features, such as a stereo, could have different part percentages, causing an administrative burden to even determine the content levels, he said.

The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, lobbyists for the Big Three U.S. automakers, supports the bill with some changes to reduce the administrative burden.

Ted Orme, spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said the bill stops short of blatant protectionism but said, ″Any intelligent person can see this is a ‘Buy American’ attempt.″

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