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North Carolina Law Review

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Although most courts and commentators presume that the states disappear when it comes to foreign relations, states actually play a crucial role in fulfilling U.S. obligations under international law. In many circumstances, state governments are the only institutions responsible for carrying out treaty and customary international law obligations on behalf of the United States. Not only have states always played this role, but state control over the implementation of such obligations is likely to become even more important in the future because the implementation of many private international law and international human rights treaties is controlled by the states. This role for states in controlling compliance with international law calls into question the widely held view that exclusive federal control over foreign relations is required or desirable. This Article suggests state-controlled implementation could actually bolster the development of international law.