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Massachusetts to be warned on Burma
Subject: Massachusetts to be warned on Burma law
Massachusetts to be warned on Burma law
US trade officials target sanctions
Frank Phillips, The Boston Globe, 15 April 97, pB5
Alarmed by Massachusetts' efforts to press economic sanctions against military
dictators in Burma and Indonesia, a top US trade official has scheduled a
round of meetings in Boston today to talk state officials out of their
renegade foreign-policy initiatives.
Sources said yesterday that Rebecca Reese, director of procurement affairs for
the US trade representative's office, and a State Department trade official
will warn that President Clinton believes Massachusetts is violating
international trade agreements.
The messengers are expected to face a cool reception at the State House.
"We're not backing off this," said Representative Byron Rushing (D-South End),
who sponsored the Burma sanctions bill.
"My message to them is they should not stand in the way of elected
legislatures," Rushing said. "If they wish to engage in this type of activity,
it is undemocratic." Rushing said aides to Governor William F. Weld have
assured him they have no plans to back down either.
At issue is Massachusetts' first-in-the-nation law that bans state agencies or
authorities from contracting with companies that do business in the
military-ruled Southeast Asian nation.
The law has created an international furor among America's trading partners
and a migraine headache for the Clinton administration, which has come under
heavy pressure from allies and US multinational corporations to bring
Massachusetts into line.
Since it seized power in 1987, the military-led State Law and Order
Restoration Council in Burma has been assailed by human-rights groups for
suppressing political opposition, including attempts to silence Aung San Suu
Kyi, the pro-democraacy leader and Nobel peace laureate who won a 1990 electin
and has since been under house arrest.
Burma has also been under fire for what federal drug officials have called its
growing reliance on the heroin and cocaine trade to fuel economic development.
Reese and a State Department trade official are scheduled to meet with
legislators who have sponsored sanctions bills, House Speaker Thomas M.
Finneran, and senior representatives of Weld and of Attorney General Scott
The State Department is especially worried other states will follow
Massachusetts' example. Three states are considering similar bills.
The two Washington officials reportedly also want to press Massachusetts
officials about a pending sanction bill that would bar state contracts with
firms doing business in Indonesia and require pension funds to divest of stock
in such corporations. The bill targets what critics call Indonesia's
heavy-handed efforts to quell opposition in East Timor.
The European Union and Japan, pushed by their multinatinal corporations, have
protested the Massachsuetts sanctions on Burma and the proposed sanctions on
Indonesia, claiming they violate the World Trade Organization's rules.