The Law of the Sea Treaty calls for technology transfers and wealth transfers from developed to undeveloped nations. It also requires parties to the treaty to adopt regulations and laws to control pollution of the marine environment. Such provisions were among the reasons President Ronald Reagan rejected the treaty in 1982. As Edwin Meese, U.S. Attorney General under President Reagan, explained recently, “…it was out of step with the concepts of economic liberty and free enterprise that Ronald Reagan was to inspire throughout the world.”
By John Bellinger
Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Raff has noted in recent posts some of the conservative opposition to the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention. But the treaty is supported by many senior Republican officials. Last Thursday all of the living Republican Secretaries of State — Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice — signed a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging the Senate to approve the treaty. They argue: “The continuing delay of U.S. accession to the convention compromises our nation’s authority to exercise our sovereign interest, jeopardizes our national and economic security, and limits our leadership role in international ocean policy.” The Secretaries of State join every former Legal Adviser of the State Department, every former Chief of Naval Operations, and all of U.S. business — the oil & gas, shipping, mining, and telecommunications industries — in supporting the treaty.
The U.S. has more to gain by participating in convention deliberations than by staying out.
The Convention of the Law of the Sea is again under consideration by the U.S. Senate. If the U.S. finally becomes party to this treaty, it will be a boon for our national security and economic interests. U.S. accession will codify our maritime rights and give us new tools to advance national interests.
The convention’s primary functions are to define maritime zones, preserve freedom of navigation, allocate resource rights, establish the certainty necessary for various businesses that depend on the sea, and protect the marine environment. Flaws in the treaty regarding deep-seabed mining, which prevented President Ronald Reagan from supporting it, were fixed in 1994. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have supported ratification, as do Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, because it is in the best interest of our nation. Yet the U.S. remains one of the few major countries not party to the convention.
The treaty provides substantial economic benefits to the U.S. It accords coastal states the right to declare an “Exclusive Economic Zone” where they have exclusive rights to explore and exploit, and the responsibility to conserve and manage, living and nonliving resources extending 200 nautical miles seaward from their shoreline. Our nation’s exclusive zone would be larger than that of any country in the world—covering an area greater than the landmass of the lower 48 states. In addition, the zone can be extended beyond 200 nautical miles if certain geological criteria are met; this has significant potential benefits where the U.S.’s continental shelves may be as broad as 600 miles, such as off Alaska, where vast natural resources lie.
As the world’s pre-eminent maritime power with one of the longest coastlines, the U.S. has more than any other country to gain—and to lose—based on how the convention’s terms are interpreted and applied. By becoming party to the treaty, we would strengthen our capacity to influence deliberations and negotiations involving other nations’ attempts to extend their continental boundaries.
The U.S. currently has no input into international deliberations over rights to the Arctic, where rich energy and mineral resources are found more than 200 nautical miles from any country’s shoreline. Russia has placed its flag on the North Pole’s ocean floor. This is a largely symbolic act, but the part of the Arctic Ocean claimed by Russia could hold oil and gas deposits equal to about 20% of the world’s current oil and gas reserves.
As a nonparty to the treaty, the U.S. has limited options for disputing such claims and is stymied from taking full advantage of resources that could be under U.S. jurisdiction. Lack of participation in the convention also jeopardizes economic opportunities associated with commercial deep-sea mining operations in international waters beyond exclusive economic zones—opportunities now pursued by Canadian, Australian and German firms.
Some say it’s good enough to protect our navigational interests through customary international law, and if that approach fails then we can use force or threaten to do so. But customary law is vague and doesn’t provide a strong foundation for critical national security rights. What’s more, the use of force can be risky and costly. Joining the convention would put our vital rights on a firmer legal basis, gaining legal certainty and legitimacy as we operate in the world’s largest international zone.
The continuing delay of U.S. accession to the convention compromises our nation’s authority to exercise our sovereign interest, jeopardizes our national and economic security, and limits our leadership role in international ocean policy.
Our planet’s environment is changing, and there is an increasing need to access resources responsibly. We can expect significant change and resulting economic benefit as the Arctic opens and delivers potentially extraordinary economic benefit to our country. Our coastline, one of the longest in the world, will increase.
These changes and the resulting economic effects are the substance of serious international deliberations of which we are not a part. Time moves on and we are not at the table. This is a serious problem and a significant cost for future generations of Americans.
Maritime claims not only in the Arctic but throughout the world are becoming more contentious. As aggressive maritime behavior increases, the U.S. military has become more, not less, emphatic on the need to become party to this treaty. Current and past military leaders are firmly behind accession, because while nothing in the convention restricts or prohibits our military activity, it is the best process for resolving disputes.
We have been on the sidelines long enough. Now is the time to get on the field and lead.
The authors all have served as secretary of State in Republican administrations.
By Frank Gaffney
In recent days, top U.S. cabinet officers have traveled around the world on high-profile diplomatic missions. Ironically, in the process of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Arctic Circle and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s travels in Asia, they both undercut the case for the United Nations’ controversial Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) — a case they had jointly made prior to departing in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Mrs. Clinton took part in a meeting of the Arctic Council, whose eight members have territory in that region. Of these, just five — Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark’s Greenland and the United States — actually have coasts on the Arctic Ocean, and therefore are able to claim rights to the resources offshore. READ THE REST HERE
Written by Bruce Walker
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is a treaty which has never been ratified by the United States since it was proposed several decades ago. The Obama administration has been working to get the treaty ratified through the United States Senate. Secretary of State Clinton recently testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
I am well aware that this treaty does have determined opposition, limited, but nevertheless quite vociferous. And it is unfortunate because it is opposition based in ideology and mythology, not in facts, evidence, or the consequences of our continuing failure to accede to the treaty.
Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma expressed concern that the treaty would take royalty income away from the United States for oil, gas and minerals extracted beyond the established 200-mile limit established for exploration and extraction by coastal nations. This wealth may be vast. Although oil and gas have been taken out of ocean floors for quite a while, the potential to acquire manganese (with large quantities of high-grade iron), gold, copper, uranium, and even small diamonds suitable for many industrial purposes has scarcely been touched, although the mineral wealth in deep chasms of the ocean as well as wealth in sea water itself, could run into trillions of dollars.