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Jean Galbraith: Cooperative and Uncooperative Foreign Affairs Federalism
Michael Ramsey

In the current edition of the Harvard Law Review, Jean Galbraith has the book review Cooperative and Uncooperative Foreign Affairs Federalism. (reviewing Michael Glennon and Robert Sloane, Foreign Affairs Federalism: The Myth of National Exclusivity).  From the the introduction:

Foreign affairs are a matter for our national government. On this there was agreement from the beginning, with even the Jeffersonians accepting that the nation should be “one as to all foreign concerns,” albeit “several as to all merely domestic.” The text of the Constitution bestows a cornucopia of foreign affairs powers upon the federal government and explicitly limits the powers of the states. The received wisdom was that, as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “[n]ations in relation to each other are but single units” and “[a] nation needs a single government above all to give it the advantage when dealing with foreigners.”

But are foreign affairs exclusively a matter for our national government? And if not, then what can states and local governments do with regard to foreign affairs? Like other separation of powers issues, these questions have been with us throughout our constitutional history, sometimes salient and sometimes muted, expressed through the continued practice of various layers of government and the sporadic interventions of courts. From early on, states have engaged with issues involving both local and transnational dimensions, including immigration, the treatment of foreign nationals, and the use of foreign law.

Today the shared space between what is local and what is transnational is far greater. Just as issues once viewed as local matters increasingly came to be seen as national, so now they are increasingly taken to have transnational significance. Globalization presses on practically every front: trade, environment, security, health, human rights, investment, migration, and more. One prominent effect of this shift has been the rise of transnational regulation through treaties and other forms of international cooperation.The counterpart is the growing extent to which state and local governments act in this shared space. This is the focus of Professors Michael Glennon and Robert Sloane’s thoughtful recent book, Foreign Affairs Federalism: The Myth of National Exclusivity.


In what follows, I argue for reorienting the focus of foreign affairs federalism toward its cooperative and uncooperative aspects. In Part I, I situate Glennon and Sloane’s contribution within the broader literature on foreign affairs federalism and describe some of their contributions. In Part II, I briefly examine four of the examples of foreign affairs federalism given by Glennon and Sloane: the sister-cities program, trade sanctions and related measures, the regulation of undocumented immigrants, and climate change mitigation actions. I argue that both the political choices made by state and local governments and the legal consequences of these choices interact closely with a backdrop of federal statutes and executive branch action, while background constitutional principles about state power in the face of federal silence play a distinctly smaller role. In Part III, I draw on scholarly work engaging with cooperative and uncooperative federalism and consider what implications it offers for the foreign affairs context. This literature explores how the federal government can incentivize state and local governments to help advance federal interests, how these state and local governments can in turn influence or resist federal policy, and how both Congress and the executive branch can use state and local action to muster power at the expense of the other branch. At a high level of generality, these insights apply to the foreign affairs context. But because of the added complexity of the foreign affairs context — including its ties to international law and its increased reliance on strong executive power — the specifics cannot simply be imported wholesale. I therefore close by suggesting three sets of ways in which the practice and doctrine associated with cooperative and uncooperative foreign affairs federalism should differ from the domestic context.