Defining the Extraterritorial Reach of American Export Controls: Congress as Catalyst

80 Pages Posted: 14 May 2009

Date Written: 1984


Since the United States began systematically to restrict exports in peacetime for national security and foreign policy purposes, foreign opposition to the extraterritorial reach of American export controls has been rife. The Reagan Administration's efforts to delay completion of the Soviet Union's natural gas pipeline to Western Europe raised foreign concern over American claims of extraterritorial jurisdiction to new heights. The jurisdictional reach of the pipeline sanctions was in several respects unprecedented. The foreign response was similarly unprecedented: both the British and French governments acted to block the application of the American controls, while other European governments openly urged that the controls be defied. Given the underlying realities of the international economy and the "dynamic of escalation" that some observers have discerned, there is every reason to fear that similar confrontations will be played out in the future.

This article argues that the current period of relative calm in trans-Atlantic political relations provides an unusual opportunity to seek at least partial resolution of a jurisdictional controversy that has split the United States and its major trading partners for over thirty years. The article does not attempt to analyze the principles and precedents of international law on the reach of national jurisdiction. Rather, it argues for a practical solution to the dispute, centering on international negotiations. In particular, the article suggests that Congress could be an effective catalyst of such a dispute resolution process and outlines a course of action that Congress might follow to perform this function.

Keywords: International relations, Extraterritoriality, Economics

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth Wayne, Defining the Extraterritorial Reach of American Export Controls: Congress as Catalyst (1984). Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 17, 1984. Available at SSRN:

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)

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