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Robert Dalton

Robert Dalton, Assistant Legal Advisor for Treaty Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Written Testimony and Oral Testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, October 4, 2000, pp. 19-21.  We are concerned about the foreign relations aspect of the [Enhanced Commonwealth proposal], particularly the proposed provisions regarding Puerto Rico’s ability to enter into agreements with foreign nations and participate in international organizations.

[The Enhanced Commonwealth proposal] would purport to make the Commonwealth a nation legally and constitutionally and provide it with many trappings of a sovereign nation.  Yet at the same time, the legislation would retain or create links to the United States that are inconsistent with sovereignty as that term is understood in international law.  It is this hybrid nature of the arrangement contemplated in the legislation that renders it untenable as a functional matter.

It is essential that the component parts of U.S. foreign policy form a consistent and internally consistent whole.  This cannot be accomplished if areas that are within U.S. control are populated primarily by U.S. citizens, conduct their own foreign affairs.  It benefits neither the United States as a whole or the territories and commonwealths if the United States is perceived as speaking with many inconsistent voices internationally.  The Founding Fathers…widely recognized this in framing the Constitution.

[W]e think that the hybrid nature of the status proposed for Puerto Rico would render it impossible for the United States to maintain a unitary foreign policy with respect to all areas under its control.  Therefore, we oppose the provisions of the [proposal] relating to the foreign affairs powers to be conferred on Puerto Rico which would be untenable functionally in the overall context of the proposed arrangement.

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