Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Issues Formal Opinion Concerning the Interplay Between a Wisconsin Statute and the General Agreement on Trade in Services

Dec 19 2014
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Issues Formal Opinion Concerning the Interplay Between a Wisconsin Statute and the General Agreement on Trade in Services
 

MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued a formal opinion today to Rep. Robin Vos, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Organization, concerning the interplay between a Wisconsin statute and an international agreement to which the United States of America is a party. Wisconsin Stat. § 710.02 limits the acreage in Wisconsin land that may be acquired, owned, or held by a nonresident alien or foreign corporation. The General Agreement on Trade in Services, known as the GATS, directs its signatories to accord to the services and service suppliers of other GATS nations “treatment no less favourable than it accords to its own like services and service suppliers.” Chairman Vos asked whether Wis. Stat. § 710.02 applies to GATS nations.

 

Van Hollen concluded that the acreage limitation in Wis. Stat. § 710.02 is generally inapplicable to the services and service suppliers of GATS nations. On the one hand, while the GATS requires equal treatment for services and service suppliers, the statute does not limit land acquisition by nonresident aliens and foreign corporations for service-related uses; instead, the acreage limitation applies to agricultural and forestry uses only. On the other hand, the statute contains a treaty exception, which exempts from the acreage limitation foreign citizens and subjects whose right to hold quantities of land above the statutory acreage limit is secured by treaty. The treaty exception applies to the GATS, and protects foreign corporations and similar entities as well as nonresident alien individuals.

 

A copy of the Attorney General’s opinion is available at the following link:  Opinion.

 

A copy of the opinion request is available at the following link:  Request.

 

Formal and informal opinions issued by Attorney General Van Hollen are available here.