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Massachusetts "Burma Law" Held Unconstitutional
Description Massachusetts restricted purchases from firms doing business with Myanmar to try to force that country to improve its human rights policies. Court held the law to be an unconstitutional infringement of the foreign commerce clause, as regulation of foreign trade is exclusively a federal matter.
Topic International Law
Key Words Federal Exclusivity, Foreign Commerce Clause
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts To protest human rights violations and to force change in Myanmar's domestic policies, Massachusetts passed the "Burma Law" that prohibits the state and its agents from purchasing goods or services from anyone doing business with the Union of Myanmar. Companies found doing business with Myanmar were put on a "restricted purchase list," which meant that the state would buy from them only under limited circumstances. The National Foreign Trade Council sued for declaratory judgment that the Burma Law is unconstitutional.
Decision The Burma Law is unconstitutional. It "(1) intrudes on the federal government's exclusive power to regulate foreign affairs; (2) discriminates against and burdens international trade in violation of the Foreign Commerce Clause; and (3) is preempted by a federal statute and an executive order imposing sanctions on Myanmar.
Citation National Foreign Trade Council v. Baker, -F.Supp.2d - (1998 WL 790597, D. Mass.)
26 F. Supp. 2d 287 (D. Mass., 1998)

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