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The Role of State and Local Governments

Who Makes U.S. Foreign Policy?


State and local governments have an interest in protecting and serving local needs. Governments in some parts of the U.S. have opened trade offices in foreign cities to promote business, trade and investment ties. Finding a list of all these overseas offices representing state and local efforts is difficult. But a list of all state economic development offices is here.

Local Concerns

State and local governments also lobby the federal government on specific foreign policy issues. Governors in the Midwest closely track global negotiations on agriculture subsidies. Governors of states with international borders have special concerns. Florida is often affected by political upheaval in the Caribbean.

State and local governments often reflect local concerns about world affairs. This article discusses state and local laws which sanction (or forbid business with) some countries. The best example being local laws which required divestment of holdings in apartheid-era South Africa.

Scores of local governments passed resolutions calling for the United States to withdraw military forces from Iraq.

Legal Limits

So state and local governments can promote international trade, express opinions on foreign affairs, and even regulate their own interactions with other countries. But there are significant limits on how far state and local governments can dive into foreign policy. A federal court ruling in 1998 said, "State interests, no matter how noble, do not trump the federal government's exclusive foreign affairs power."

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