Star-Kist Foods, Inc. v. United States


Save your time - order a paper!

Get your paper written from scratch within the tight deadline. Our service is a reliable solution to all your troubles. Place an order on any task and we will take care of it. You won’t have to worry about the quality and deadlines

Order Paper Now

Star-Kist Foods, a U.S. producer of canned tuna, instituted a lawsuit to protest the assessment of duties made by the collector of customs on imported canned tuna. Duty was assessed on the canned tuna at the rate of 12.5 percent pursuant to a trade agreement with Iceland. Prior to the agreement, the tariff rate had been set by Congress in the Tariff Act of 1930 at 25 percent ad valorem. The trade agreement with Iceland, which resulted in lowering the rate of duty, was executed pursuant to the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934. That act authorized the president to enter into foreign trade agreements for the purpose of expanding foreign markets for the products of the United States by affording corresponding market opportunities for foreign products in the United States. To implement an agreement, the president was then authorized to raise or lower any duty previously set by Congress, but not by more than 50 percent. Star-Kist brought this action, contending that the delegation of authority under the 1934 act, and the agreement with Iceland, were unconstitutional.


A constitutional delegation of powers requires that Congress enunciate a policy or objective or give reasons for seeking the aid of the President. In addition the act must specify when the powers conferred may be utilized by establishing a standard or “intelligible principle” which is sufficient to make it clear when action is proper. And because Congress cannot abdicate its legislative function and confer carte blanche authority on the President, it must circumscribe that power in some manner. This means that Congress must tell the President what he can do by prescribing a standard which confines his discretion and which will guarantee that any authorized action he takes will tend to promote rather than flout the legislative purpose. It is not necessary that the guides be precise or mathematical formulae to be satisfactory in a constitutional sense.
In the act before us the congressional policy is pronounced very clearly. The stated objectives are to expand foreign markets for the products of the United States “by regulating the admission of foreign goods into the United States in accordance with the char acteristics and needs of various branches of American production so that foreign markets will be made available to those branches of American production which require and are capable of developing such outlets by affording corresponding market opportunities for foreign products in the United States. . . .”
Pursuant to the 1934 act the presidential power can be invoked “whenever he [the President] finds as a fact that any existing duties or other import restrictions of the United States or any foreign country are unduly burdening or restricting the foreign trade of the United States and that the [purpose of the act] will be promoted.” …
Under the provisions of the 1934 act the President by proclamation can modify existing duties and other import restrictions but not by more than 50 percent of the specified duties nor can he place articles upon or take them off the free list. Furthermore, he must accomplish the purposes of the act through the medium of foreign trade agreements with other countries. However, he can suspend the operation of such agreements if he discovers discriminatory treatment of American commerce, and he can terminate, in whole or in part, any proclamation at any time . . .
In view of the Supreme Court’s recognition of the necessity of flexibility in the laws affecting foreign relations . . . we are of the opinion that the 1934 act does not grant an unconstitutional delegation of authority to the President.

Decision. The court held for the United States. The congressional delegation of authority under the 1934 statute was constitutional because Congress had provided the president with a sufficiently discernible standard to guide any decisions in carrying out the purposes of the act.

Case Questions

1. What was the constitutional authority for the agreement with Iceland?

2. What was the policy objective of Congress in enacting the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act noted by the court? How was the president to implement this policy?

3. Why was the congressional delegation of authority constitutional?


"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Get Expert Help at an Amazing Discount!"