Lobbyists for some of the world’s biggest multinational corporations met in Washington D.C. last week to steer members of the Foreign Relations Committee to vote in their favor on the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as it is formally known, sets rules for the use of marine natural resources.
It was signed in 1982 and came into force in 1994, but was never ratified by the United States. The United States is the only industrialized power which has yet to ratify the treaty.
According to the United Nations, 162 countries including the European Community, China, Japan, Russia, Canada and India have signed the Treaty.
Ratifying the treaty, according to the Foreign Policy article, Senators and industry reps push for law of the Sea Treaty would significantly increase the potential scope of U.S. domestic energy production by expanding the definition of the outer continental shelf.
It would also give the U.S. greater access to undersea rare earth minerals, which are widely used in smart phones, flat-screen TVs, medical equipment and US defense systems.
As Ars Technica notes in the article, Why Your ISP Cares About the Law of the Seas, one of the primary benefits of the Convention is its dispute resolution procedures that relate to the operation and implementation of subsea cables.
Under the treaty, parties must use compulsory dispute resolution procedures that protect submarine cable operators against onerous and unreasonable permitting or coastal states who refuse to allow the installation of subsea cable facilities.
This would come in handy when dealing with China, for example. China requires a permit for cable ships entering its 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone to repair damaged cables. That violates the treaty, but the US doesn’t have any formal way to object to that.
Critics have warned that ratifying the treaty might compromise U.S. sovereignty, ceding power to the United Nations.
As the Seattle Times article, Lost at Sea: Proposed U.N. treaty would diminish U.S. Sovereignty, notes, ratification would erode American sovereignty by empowering a U.N. bureaucracy — the International Seabed Authority, based in Jamaica — to give or withhold permission for mining, and to transfer perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. wealth to whatever nation it deems deserving — “on the basis of equitable sharing criteria, taking into account the interests and needs of developing states, particularly the least developed and the land-locked among them.”
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a long-time supporter of the pact, has decided to delay a vote on the treaty until after the November 6 elections in a bid to avoid it becoming entangled in the political fray.
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