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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.