Roger Simmermaker's column entitled "Are you ready for 'Made in the World'? Country-of-origin labels being targeted by World Trade Organization" makes for very interesting reading, particularly if you are fan of conspiracy theory fiction.
Let us be very clear: The WTO is not seeking to scrap country of origin labels. We understand the importance of labeling for consumers, producers and policymakers. This has been, is and will remain within the purview of national legislators. But the Made in the World Initiative is not about labels. It is about better understanding production and trade patterns in the 21st century. Mr. Simmermaker is absolutely correct when he states that a country of origin label like "Made in the USA" does not tell the whole story and that a huge number of products under this label are actually assembled in the United States with goods and services that were imported from elsewhere. American designers, researchers, engineers, financial advisers and advertising executives also contribute to the production of products made in many other countries around the world.
When a German car is exported, this creates employment not only in Germany, but also in all the countries which participated in the international supply chain. Conversely, if one supplier faces problems (for example when Japan was hit by a tsunami), the production of cars in Europe may have to stop because critical components are in short supply. The WTO initiative aims to show this increasing interdependence of productive systems across the globe, between countries and industries.
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For business and trade policymakers, it is important to understand the global production model, and where and how value-added is created. Both the World Input Output Database (WIOD) and the joint OECD-WTO project seek to provide information enabling us to analyze global value chains at aggregate level only. The guiding principle behind "measuring trade in value added" is to make better use of all statistical information available (national accounts and input-output matrices, business registers) to better understand global value chains and the relationship between trade and domestic production.
Good policies can only be based on good facts and figures. Let's get the facts and figures right and avoid science fiction taking over.
Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organization spokesman