Supreme Court Rules Massachusetts Burma Law Unconstitutional; Judgment of First Circuit Court Affirmed

Washington, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) hailed today’s unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the Massachusetts “Burma Law” as “a victory for the U.S. Constitution.”

The Massachusetts Law was designed to deny state contracts to any company doing business in Burma. The Court ruled unanimously that the Burma Law impermissibly intruded on the federal government’s authority and was preempted by federal law regarding Burma.

“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, which reaffirms the federal government’s predominant role in foreign policy and should help put an end to state and local efforts to make foreign policy,” said Frank Kittridge, President of the NFTC. “The Court’s opinion, written by Justice Souter, relied upon Congress’s “clear mandate” in federal Burma legislation to have the President “speak for the United States among the world’s nations,” noting that Congress’s “invocation of exclusively national power belies any suggestion that Congress intended the President’s effective voice to be obscured by an state or local action.”

The Court went on to state that “the President’s maximum power to persuade rests on his capacity to bargain for the benefits of access to the entire national economy without exception for enclaves fenced off willy-nilly by inconsistent political tactics.”

“The NFTC filed its suit because of concerns among U.S. businesses and agriculture that the mounting patchwork of state and local sanctions was threatening to seriously hurt U.S. interests – while at the same time threatening a coherent U.S. foreign policy,” said Kittridge. “Over 30 sub-federal sanctions laws are now on the books in states and cities across America. It is time for those jurisdictions to begin the process of rescinding those measures.”

“We continue to share concerns over human rights abuses in Burma, but those concerns can best be addressed through a coordinated, multinational effort. Our system of government was not designed to allow the fifty states and tens of thousands of municipalities to conduct their own individual foreign policies,” Kittridge concluded.

Read the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Crosby v. NFTC.