Canada Just Corrected Its "Made in Israel" Policy. It's Time for the U.S. To Do the Same.

July 25, 2017 | Eugene Kontorovich
About the author: Eugene Kontorovich is a professor at George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law, director of its Center for International Law in the Middle East, and a scholar at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.

“An important battle just played out in Canada at the intersection of geopolitical territorial disputes and international trade law,” writes Eugene Kontorovich. At issue was the labeling of Israeli products made in the West Bank. Earlier this month, the Canadian government summarily reversed a decision by one of its agencies that wine produced in the West Bank could no longer be given the “Made in Israel” label. To Kontorovich, this is a good opportunity for the United States to reexamine its own Customs policy, which calls for such products to be labeled “Made in the West Bank”:

The notion that “Made in Israel” labels in such a context are misleading has been rejected in recent years by the UK Supreme Court and French appellate courts. . . . Quite simply, such labels are not understood by consumers as making any statement about the importing state’s view of sovereignty in a disputed territory. The UK court noted that it would be impossible to show that the typical consumer relies on such an assumption to his or her material detriment.

That is why the European Union imports products from occupied Western Sahara labeled “Made in Morocco” despite not regarding it as Moroccan sovereign territory, as well as allowing “Made in Palestine” and “Made in Taiwan” labels on consumer goods despite not recognizing even the existence of those countries. Indeed, bottles from occupied Nagorno-Karabakh are imported into Canada and Europe with labels describing them as “Armenian” products or even products of “Artsakh,” the Armenian name for the region that the international community regards as occupied Azerbaijani territory.

In short, no one thinks the typical consumer relies on food labels to determine sovereignty issues.

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