Unocal statement on Burma selective purchasing ordinance by the City of Los Angeles
El Segundo, Calif., Dec. 15, 1998 - Unocal Corporation today issued the following statement after the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance prohibiting certain contracts with firms that do business in Burma (Myanmar).
The approval today of the Burma ordinance by the city council is counterproductive and unconstitutional. Under the U.S. Constitution, foreign policy is the province of the federal government, not dozens of U.S. cities and municipalities. By this action, the city council has moved beyond its legal authority.
A similar statute in Massachusetts was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court. Los Angeles could now find itself using taxpayer dollars to defend this well intended, but inappropriate measure.
The ordinance also sends an unwelcome message to the city's trading partners in the Pacific Rim. It is a slap in the face of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), which has already condemned such sanctions.
The most successful approach for positive change is through engagement, not political isolation and economic quarantine. This has been demonstrated repeatedly. In Burma, for example, the Yadana natural gas project has been instrumental in changing military labor practices in the region of the pipeline. At the same time, the project created high-paying jobs, established health centers, built new schools and implemented socio-economic development programs for an area that was extremely undeveloped.
Updated: December 1998