July 19, 2012 11:48AM

U‑S-A! U‑S-A!

We now have the technical details of the absurd Olympic uniform controversy, as the proposed Senate legislation is available. Some key excerpts:

(a) In General‐ The [United States Olympic Committee] shall adopt a policy with respect to uniforms to be worn by athletes during ceremonies that are part of the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, or the Pan‐​American Games that requires the [United States Olympic Committee]–

(1) to purchase or otherwise obtain only uniforms that meet the requirements described in subsection (b); or

(2) to make publicly available a detailed justification of the reasons the corporation purchased or otherwise obtained uniforms that do not meet those requirements.

(b) Requirements‐ A uniform meets the requirements described in this subsection if the uniform, including accessories, such as ties, belts, shoes, and hats, meets the standards of the Federal Trade Commission for labeling as ‘Made in USA’.

What I found interesting was that the U.S. Olympic Committee does not actually have to use domestically made uniforms. In fact, they have another option, which is “to make publicly available a detailed justification of the reasons” why they “purchased or otherwise obtained uniforms that do not meet those requirements.” In this regard, perhaps they can utilize this option by simply reposting some of my colleague Dan Ikenson’s recent commentary:

Trade is not a competition between “our producers” and “their producers.” In fact, U.S.-based firms benefit from collaborating with foreign firms by carving up the production process into distinct functions and processes that suit each location’s efficiencies and strengths. Just as trade enables U.S. consumers to benefit from lower‐​cost final goods, globalization enables U.S. producers to benefit from access to lower‐​cost resources put into the manufacturing system. That enables them to compete more effectively at home and abroad.

Another passage from the legislation is a bit more mysterious:

(d) Compliance With Trade Agreements‐ The policy adopted under subsection (a) shall be applied in a manner that is consistent with the obligations of the United States under all applicable trade agreements to which the United States is a party.

The only way I can think of to apply this policy consistently with U.S. trade obligations is not to follow it.

(For the record, with reference to the accessories described in the legislation, here is the breakdown of my outfit today. My tie was made in the USA, my shoes were made in Brazil, and my belt was made in China. I’m not wearing a hat.)