Imported articles are to be marked with the name of the country of origin to indicate to the ultimate purchaser the name of the country in which the product was manufactured. The ultimate purchaser is generally the last person in the United States who will receive the article in the form in which it was imported.
Country-of-origin determination is important because imports are subject to selective tariffs and nontariff barriers depending on the origin of the merchandise. Country-of-origin is the country of manufacture, production, or growth of an article. Most imports, for example those from Canada and Mexico, enter duty free, whereas those from other nations are subject to a higher tariff, a quota, or even an import ban (e.g., on imports from Cuba and North Korea). Customs uses the “substantial transformation test” to determine the country of origin of a product that is made up of components or materials from several different countries. The country of origin is determined to be the one where the product was substantially transformed in its current state (Buonafina and Haar, 1989).
Markings must be legible and located in a conspicuous place, where they can be seen by someone who is handling the merchandise casually. They should be capable of remaining (permanently) on the article during transportation or handling. In the case of certain articles for which marking is not required, such as artworks, lumber, and sugar, their containers must be marked to indicate the English name of the country of origin. There are also special marking requirements for certain articles, for example, watches, surgical instruments, knives, razors, steel, pipes, and vacuum containers. However, marking is not required for imports not intended for sale (personal use items), products used for further processing, crude substances, or items that are incapable of being marked or cannot be marked without injury or prohibitive expense. Other articles not required to be marked with the country of origin include articles valued at no more than $200 that are passed without the filing of a customs entry, articles brought into a foreign trade zone or a bonded warehouse for immediate exportation, and certain coffee, tea, and spice products. Notwithstanding the exemption, the containers must be marked to show the country of origin of such articles, according to the Code of Federal Regulations (19 CFR 1304).
Source: Seyoum Belay (2014), Export-import theory, practices, and procedures, Routledge; 3rd edition.