Sovereignty, economic independence at heart
of the arguments regarding Law of the Sea
By DAISY R. KHALIFA, Special Correspondent
and Lockheed Martin Corp., with its
long history in deep seabed mining,
are anxious for the nation to join the
convention so that they can conduct
business within what is seen as the
accepted international framework
and legal body for their respective
operations as U.S. organizations.
Their support is being echoed by
leading environmental groups, such
as the World Wildlife Fund.
Opponents, such as the Heritage
Foundation, which has produced a
fairly large body of research to
counter the case for joining the Law
of the Sea Convention, are wary of
subscribing to an international
treaty that they say may impinge on U.S. sovereignty
and economic independence.
Adopted in 1982, Convention set forth a framework for
governing the oceans, seas and straits, and portions of the
treaty concerning deep seabed mining were disputed for
years by a number of industrialized countries, including
the United States, which resisted joining without securing
specific provisions. The issues that were raised in 1982 by
then-President Ronald Reagan — including mandates for
technology transfer, insufficient U.S. influence in decision-making and guarantees for access by U.S. industry to deep
seabed minerals on the basis of reasonable terms and conditions — were rectified in an agreement in 1994.
The United States signed the agreement, whose provisions prevail on deep seabed mining, but has yet to
accede to the Convention. Today, 161 nations and the
European Union, including all of the traditional allies
of the United States, are party to the Convention.
Groves, the Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow at
Heritage’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom,
described in an interview with Seapower, and again in June
14 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, objections to U.S. accession to the Law of the
Arguments for and against U.S. accession to the U.N. Convention
on the Law of the Sea are expected to become even more heated as the end of 112th Congressional session nears.
; Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the matter
kicked off with a gathering of top Cabinet and military officials.
; Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry said a vote on the Convention will not happen until after November elections.
; Opponents take exception to what they say is oversight and taxation by international authorities, anticipate international lawsuits and
argue that the Convention is not necessary to bolster the U.S. Navy.
As the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea gains attention in Congress once again, there is a fresh debate as to the pros and cons of joining
the 30-year-old international treaty in the face of global-ization and economic challenges at home and abroad.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee launched
hearings in late May to hear arguments regarding the
potential impact the treaty would have on the U.S.
economy, business, national security and sovereignty,
hosting military leaders, industry executives, current
and former U.S. Cabinet members and legal advisers,
and think-tank representatives.
A key sticking point for opponents, such as the Heritage Foundation’s Steven Groves and former Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is a provision in the Convention for the distribution of royalties paid on resources
extracted and sold as exports by Convention signatories,
what they say amounts to a tax. Proponents, including
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Richard Lugar,
R-Ind., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, dispute that interpretation.
Industry proponents, particularly fiber-optic cable
operators such as Level 3 Communications and AT&T