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'The local business community is working to amend a law that would increase foreign competition.'

Does this sentence mean:
1. 'the community is trying to amend a law that is already increasing foreign competition to one that is not'; or
2. 'it is trying to amend a law that is not increasing foreign competition now to one that is going to do'?

  • The sentence is poorly constructed and is not clear. As written, "that would [...]" modifies "law", but that doesn't make sense as the proposal of an amendment implied the law is already codified. I assume then that the amendment will increase foreign competition. – R Mac Mar 9 at 5:14
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The sentence is ambiguous—although the use of would at least suggests that it's more likely interpreted to mean it's the amendment that will increase foreign competition.

Rephrasing the sentence makes one or the other meaning more explicit.

The local business community is working to amend a law that increases foreign competition.
The local business community is working to amend a law that has increased foreign competition.

Here, it's clear that an existing law is responsible for an increase in foreign competition, and the amendment seeks to change that in some way. The first sentence would be used if the law to be amended was only recently introduced, while the second would be used if it has been in effect for some time.


The local business community is working to amend a law in order to increase foreign competition.

In this version, it's clear that the amendment will serve to increase foreign competition from whatever state it's currently in.

  • I think it's quite clear except that the term should be "bill" rather than "law". Stricly speaking a bill does not become law until it is passed and becomes an act. However many people, including journalists, use the word "law" to mean "bill" as well as "act". The sentence reads to me, either as though the bill has been presented and is being debated, or it has been passed but has a delayed implementation. I also believe that the business community is concerned that the provisions of the "law" as it stands would make them more vulnerable to foreign competition. – BoldBen Mar 10 at 12:04
  • @BoldBen How do you know that they are not "working to amend [an existing] law [in order that it] would increase foreign competition." "Amend" clearly suggests they are trying to change something that already exists: what makes you think that they are trying to create a new law? – TrevorD Apr 8 at 13:28
  • @TrevorD I think it's a new law because the OP's quote says "A law that would increase foreign competition". If it was an existing law the quote would read "A law that inceases foreign competition". Also the idea that any group of business people would work to increase competition and, therefore, put themselves at a disadvantage is so unlikely that I find it incredible. Turkeys do not, normally, vote for Christmas. – BoldBen Apr 9 at 16:56
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    @BoldBen Not necessarily. A law can take a while to have any noticeable effect. In a particular case, a law could already be in existence—but not produce any actual change for some period of time. It could be passed, after which people realize a mistake was made and want to change it. – Jason Bassford Apr 9 at 18:17
  • @BoldBen I think we're agreed that the wording is unclear & ambiguous. In that case, I don't think that we can base any strong argument either way solely on whether is says "would increase" or "increases". One interpretation is that it's an existing law that already "increases foreign competition", and the business community is working to prevent any further increase in competition. Another interpretation is that it's an existing law that already relates to foreign trade and there is a proposal to amend it to "increase foreign competition" still further. ... – TrevorD Apr 9 at 18:29

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