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The United States has resorted increasingly to economic sanctions as a major tool in its foreign policy. Recent targets include Panama, South Africa, Nicaragua, Libya, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Iran. These sanctions encompass controls on government programs (such as foreign aid), US. exports, imports, private financial transactions, and assistance by international financial institutions.

In this Article, Professor Carter demonstrates that the present US. legal regime governing the use of sanctions for foreign policy reasons is haphazard and in need of reform. Current US. laws provide the President with nearly unfettered authority to cut off government programs and exports, but very little nonemergency authority in other areas, such as the regulation of imports and private financial transactions. This imbalance either skews presidential decisionmaking toward the use of easily imposed sanctions that might not be in the best interests of the United States, or encourages presidential declarations of dubious national emergencies to invoke his sweeping emergency powers.

Professor Carter proposes thoroughgoing but selective reform of the present legal regime. He recommends correcting the disparity in the President's nonemergency authority by substantially increasing the President's authority over imports and private financial transactions, while reducing the control over exports. He also proposes trimming the President's ability to employ emergency powers for imposing economic sanctions.

Publication Citation

Barry E. Carter, International Economic Sanctions: Improving the Haphazard U.S. Legal Regime, 75 Cal. L. Rev. 1159 (1987)