This Article provides an overview of United States consumer protection law in the growing number cases with an international dimension that arise with economic globalization, expanding transnational corporations, worldwide production chains, manufacturing outsourcing and more efficient international communication. U.S. consumer protection law remains primarily state law, including tort and product liability law, contract and warranty law, and general and product-specific consumer protection statutes. (This refers to the private law remedies for consumer goods which are the substantive laws addressed in this article.) There is little treaty-based, constitutional or federal law except for federal regulatory law that largely adopts state law standards, requires disclosure or encourages disclosure, monitoring and attention to consumer safety. Parties have extensive discretion to choose fora and governing law. Where parties do not so choose (as in non-contractual relations), plaintiffs have significant but limited discretion to select fora, and ordinary U.S. choice of law rules apply for substantive law, possibly with a greater tendency to choose U.S. law. Requirements for personal jurisdiction are similar to those in domestic litigation. Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments depends partly on compliance with treaty obligations and application of relatively uniform state laws' procedural and substantive standards. Class action litigation and alternative dispute resolution are available. In recent years, U.S. authorities increasingly have pursued international agreements and cooperative arrangements to increase regulatory capacity, enforcement and harmonized standards. The impact of intergovernmental cooperation has been limited, and U.S. consumers face formidable hurdles in seeking remedies against foreign defendants. Defective exports from China illustrate these limits and the increasing likelihood of foreign-based dangers to U.S. consumers. U.S. litigation against U.S. (and occasionally Chinese) defendants (many of which have foreign-based manufacturing facilities) shows how U.S. consumers can create incentives to pressure foreign producers to improve safety. Increased monitoring and regulatory harmonization may follow, benefiting U.S. consumers.
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