Thursday, August 23, 2012

Olympics, national dress and "Buy American"

The Olympics is over and the controversy around the U.S. national Olympic dress too silently subsided. I had blogged about it here. However, apart from a Bill being proposed to ensure that the U.S. national parade dress for international events was made in the U.S.A (it was discussed in the IELP blog here), the USOC voluntarily seem to have adopted a "Buy American" policy.

Global Trade Alert, that sound board of protectionism brought to light the amended policy of the USOC on this issue here.
"“All uniforms provided by sponsors, partners, licensees, or suppliers for parade ceremonies shall be ‘Made in the USA’ as defined by the standards of the Federal Trade Commission,” with certain defined exceptions (e.g., when “Obtaining such parade ceremony uniforms would be in violation of U.S. law or would not comply with any applicable trade agreements or treaties to which the United States is a party” or when “Essential materials or parts needed to produce parade ceremony uniforms are not available in the United States”). The USOC also committed to not changing the policy without first consulting with Congress, including the relevant Committees of Jurisdiction in the Senate and the House."
This would start going into effect from 2014. The 2016 Olympics in Brazil will have the U.S. team walking with a national dress "Made in the U.S.A." 

The issue was also inevitably reflected n the IELP blog about whether the measure of USOC (a private entity) would violate WTO law. While a law mandating a "Buy American"would probably not pass the test of international trade rules, a private body's policy may be exempt from WTO rules. However, is USOC exercising "governmental authority" or is the control of Congress on change of the policy indicate "governmental authority" thus making it subject to WTO law?

I had some other queries too, some trivial and some more relevant to the legal issues at hand:

1. This Policy is applicable only for "parade uniforms". I guess the sporting events uniforms are not covered. Thus, sportspersons could continue to use sportswear made anywhere (especially China?) for their sporting events.
2. While the legislation would have been inconsistent with NT principles, will the "USOC policy" which mirrors the legislation be violative of WTO law since the USOC is a "private body"?
3. USOC,in its policy, states that the policy would not be changed "without first consulting the Congress." Does this make it a "State measure" open to challenge?
4. What about the equipment, sports gear and other dress worn by the US team in future Olympics? Will there be pressure now to shift entirely to "Made in the U.S.A."?
Perhaps, the next Olympics and "national pride" will re-engage us with some of these issues.

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