Washington Law Review


Conor J. Mannix


Sub-national diplomacy, also known as paradiplomacy, occurs when sub-national actors (think cities or states) engage in international relations, either with other sub-national actors or nation-states. Though typically the province of foreign policy scholarship, paradiplomacy touches on several legal issues, particularly where sovereignty and legal frameworks collide. In the United States, the federal system established by the Constitution gives individual states plenary power but reserves international relations to the federal government through the Supremacy Clause. However, the lines between federal power and state power with regards to international relations remain fuzzy.

Sub-national actors are taking advantage of this lack of sharply drawn lines to combat local, regional, and global issues. This Comment examines what sub-national actors in the United States can do on the international stage and details illustrative examples of previous attempts and iterations of American paradiplomacy. This Comment, while focusing on the Pacific Northwest, argues that the value and efficacy of these paradiplomatic efforts both encourage their acceptance by the federal government and serve as a call for standardization and increased federal oversight.

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