Test Case Filed Contesting Validity of State and Local Sanctions Laws

Thursday, 30 April 1998

"We regard this law suit to be an important test case that will determine the very significant, perplexing and continuing issue concerning the constitutionality of state and local sanctions," said Frank Kittredge, President of the National Foreign Trade Council and Vice Chairman of USA*ENGAGE. "We believe the interests of all affected parties, including the Commonwealth and its citizens, will be served by an authoritative and prompt resolution of this issue."

"The Massachusetts Burma Law directly intrudes on the exclusive power of the national government to determine foreign policy, discriminates against companies engaged in foreign commerce, and conflicts with the policies and objectives of the federal statute imposing sanctions on the Union of Myanmar," Kittredge continued. "This is a clear constitutional issue, and we believe there are strong grounds to overturn the law."

The NFTC legal challenge is based on three premises:


    1.The United States Constitution vests complete responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations with the federal government.


    2.The Massachusetts Burma Law violates the Foreign Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits state laws that discriminate against foreign commerce, burden foreign commerce, or impede the federal government's ability to speak with one voice when regulating commercial relations with foreign governments.


    3.The Massachusetts Burma Law conflicts with the sanctions enacted by Congress and the President to implement a federal strategy for encouraging political change in the Union of Myanmar.

"The constitutional problem created by the Massachusetts Burma Law is a serious one, and the proliferation of similar laws in states and cities throughout the country creates a problem not only for business, but for the ability of the United States to conduct a coherent foreign policy," Kittredge continued. "We share concerns over reported human rights abuses in the Union of Myanmar, and encourage the United States to seek multilateral solutions to problems that exist throughout the world. However, our system of government was not designed to allow the fifty states and hundreds of municipalities to conduct their own individual foreign policies."

The NFTC has, for most of this century, represented the interests of hundreds of companies in free international trade. NFTC has filed the suit on behalf of its 580 members because the law establishes a "restricted purchase list" which currently includes over 30 of the NFTC's member companies -- preventing these companies from competing on an equal basis for contracts with Massachusetts state agencies or require that they cease doing business in the Union of Myanmar.


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