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Massachusetts Appeals Ruling on M

Subject: Massachusetts Appeals Ruling on   Myanmar Trade Law 


               Massachusetts Appeals Ruling on
               Myanmar Trade Law


               BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts will appeal a federal
judge's ruling that
               declared unconstitutional its law penalizing companies doing
business with
               Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, officials said Tuesday. 

               "Massachusetts stands with-- not against-- the federal
government in its policy
               toward the current Burma regime," Massachusetts Attorney
General Scott
               Harshbarger said in announcing the appeal. 

               President Clinton slapped sanctions on Myanmar in May 1997,
banning new
               investments by U.S. companies while allowing existing
business to continue.
               Myanmar, ruled by the military, has had Nobel Peace laureate
Aung San Suu
               Kyi under house arrest. 

               "The (U.S.) Constitution allows the states to choose not to
buy goods and
               services from persons who do business with countries that
violate human rights,"
               Harshbarger added. 

               The National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based group
of companies
               that do business overseas, challenged the 1996 Massachusetts
law, which adds
               10 percent onto bids for state contracts from companies
doing business with
               Myanmar. The European Union filed a brief supporting the
council's position. 

               The EU and Japan are protesting the law before the World
Trade Organization.
               The Clinton administration has pledged to defend the law
before the world trade

               Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled on Nov. 4 that
               Burma Law "unconstitutionally infringes on the federal
government's exclusive
               authority to regulate foreign affairs ... State interests,
no matter how noble, do
               not trump the federal government's exclusive foreign affairs

               His ruling, while binding only in Massachusetts, casts doubt
over the legality of
               similar "selective-purchasing statutes" elsewhere. Some 20
cities, including New
               York and San Francisco, have similar laws regarding trade
with Myanmar. 

               Frank Kittredge, president of the powerful Washington,
D.C.-based trade
               council, welcomed the appeal. 

               "We have always wanted to take this case as far as we could
in the court
               system," he said. A ruling by a federal appeals court would
be binding in the rest
               of New England and Puerto Rico. 

               More than 30 companies including Textron Inc. and Johnson &
Johnson were
               affected by the state's law, according to court papers. 

               U.S. cities enacted dozens of similar laws that helped
dismantle the apartheid
               regime in South Africa during the 1980s. Other U.S. courts
have rejected legal
               challenges to such laws. 

               "If selective purchasing had been banned 10 years ago,
(South African
               President) Nelson Mandela might be still in prison today,"
said Massachusetts
               Rep. Byron Rushing, a Democrat from Boston who wrote the
state's Burma

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