What if California had a foreign policy?

The Trump presidency has already brought about considerable shifts in U.S. foreign policy and many more changes are on the horizon. Foreign affairs has traditionally been viewed as a particular province of the federal government, with states limited in their abilities to negotiate with other governments through explicit federal constitutional provisions like the Foreign Commerce Clause and the Treaty Clause and more amorphous but also comprehensive powers like federal foreign affairs preemption. Nevertheless, in recent years, federalism has extended into the sphere of foreign affairs, with states and localities engaging foreign governments and exerting influence on international issues; in the environmental arena alone, a number of states and cities played a role around the negotiations of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and California has entered into a cap-and-trade agreement with Québec.

This policy lab is designed to explore the possibilities for more active involvement of sub-national actors on issues of major international concern. Building on the efforts of California and other states, counties, and cities, we will actively consider possibilities of international leadership in diverse areas including the environment, human rights, and anti-corruption.

Students in the policy lab will work on one of three projects. One project will entail working with the California Governor’s Office to explore opportunities for international leadership on climate change. A second will focus on the Enough Project’s efforts to develop a strategy for using state-level regulation of financial markets to address human rights abuses and kleptocracy. The final project will partner with Santa Clara County and the Open Government Partnership to create a pathway for cities, counties, and states to demonstrate leadership on transparency and anti-corruption issues globally.

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