Subnational Economic Development and Environmental Policy in an International Context

By Satran, Jill | International Journal of Economic Development, July-October 2002 | Go to article overview

Subnational Economic Development and Environmental Policy in an International Context


Satran, Jill, International Journal of Economic Development


Abstract

Over the past two decades, there has been a growing recognition that subnational actors are playing an increasingly energetic role in foreign affairs. The once robust notion that U.S. foreign affairs rest solely within the purview of the central government has become a relic of a bygone era. States, in particular, both out of necessity and as a result of new opportunities, have stepped onto the international stage in a variety of policy areas--including economics, environmental protection, politics and culture--not as stand-ins for the federal government, but as sovereign actors with their own unique role.

Using Event History Analysis, this study draws on general policy adoption and diffusion theory to investigate the motivations of states adoption of international economic development (IED) and international environmental (IEnv) policy. The results of this analysis provide important insights into the similarities and differences in subnational environmental and economic development foreign policy adoption.

Introduction

Over the past two decades, there has been a growing recognition among international relations and federalism scholars that subnational actors are playing an increasingly energetic role in foreign affairs. Collectively, these scholars agree that the once robust notion that U.S. foreign affairs rest solely within the purview of the central government has become a relic of a bygone era. States, in particular, both out of necessity and as a result of new opportunities, have stepped onto the international stage in a variety of fora, including economics, environment, politics and culture, not as a stand-in for the federal government, but as a sovereign actor with its own role to play.

The primary focus of the burgeoning literature on the subject of subnational foreign affairs has been its impact on national foreign policymaking and international relations. Far less is being written, however, about subnational foreign affairs from a state policy viewpoint. In fact, many of those integrally involved in the design, adoption, and implementation of subnational policy with an international orientation do not recognize these activities as "foreign affairs" or "foreign policy". (1) The fact remains, however, that states are interacting with foreign regions and their actions are designed to create some response from those regions, either in a positive mode (as in the case of international economic development), or in a more coercive mode (as in the case of human rights activity). Rather than focusing on whether states have a legitimate role in this realm, the more useful analysis focuses on how the "different advantages" can be leveraged. This, however, requires that we understand "which functions and policy instruments are best centralized and which are best placed in the hands of state and local government (Oates, 1998: p. 3)."

Both the type of issues at play and the demand for action at a local level are forcing state and local governments to take a more active role in international policy. This is due, in part, to shifts in a variety of economic and social forces--economic globalization, devolution of federal responsibilities combined with decreased transfer payments to states, and overall increases in international connectedness. It may also be due in part to a shift in perspectives on what "national security" means. Although national security remains a fundamental function of the federal government, the definition of the term has moved away from the narrow concept of armed conflict, to a broader definition that includes economic security and physical health and well-being. Thus, national security now encompasses a broad array of issues from containing "mad cow disease" (BSE) to protecting intellectual property rights. These issues actively engage citizens on a local level both because they are issues that impact individuals' day-to-day existence and because they can have a significant effect on small and medium-sized commercial operations, rather than being distant issues that engage only the national policy elite and behemoth multinational corporations (MNCs).

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