By Quentin Wagenfield
A hotly debated issue in the U.S. Senate receiving little press attention is the Law of the Sea Treaty ratification.
The treaty, an international agreement presently ratified by 162 countries, defines rights and responsibilities of countries in the use of oceans, and sets rules for businesses, the environment and the management of marine natural resources. The law went into effect when the 60th country signed on Nov. 16, 1994, but presently 34 countries including the United States haven’t ratified the treaty and are not bound by it.
The United Nations held three conferences on the treaty: in 1956, 1960, and from 1973 to 1982. President Reagan refused to sign No. 3 because “it was out of step with the concepts of economic liberty and free enterprise ….” The last three presidents and the last six Secretaries of State supported the treaty.
The U.S. Navy also is on board, according to a spokesman: “We need to lock in the navigation and overfly rights and high seas freedom contained in the convention while we can.” Supporters argue that it will clarify high-sea rules where we don’t have jurisdiction and in the Arctic Ocean where the U.S., Russia, Canada, and several Scandinavian countries are all claiming territorial rights to oil possibilities.
So why isn’t this a good thing? One concern is the relinquishment of sovereignty that superior sea power provides. The greatest concern is the treaty’s non-navigational provisions, which would siphon massive amounts of revenue away from the U.S. and give it to developing nations. This is the treaty’s Article 82 that supporters overlook by accident or design.
It requires royalties from oil and gas exploration on the continental shelf that now go to the U.S. Treasury to be “international royalties” and shared with the International Seabed Authority, a treaty-created organization based in Kingston, Jamaica. Once the U.S. joins the treaty, it would be forced to pay a
1 percent royalty of the total ECS production to the ISA in year six, which is then increased 1 percent a year until year 12 when it reaches 7 percent. This will continue until production ceases.
Currently, oil companies pay a royalty of 12.5 percent to
18.5 percent of production to the U.S. Treasury. The U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force is mapping the ECS extent, and estimates that these resources “may be worth many billions if not trillions of dollars,” a potentially devastating revenue loss to the U.S. The treaty assembly of 162 countries determines the royalty distribution — the U.S. would have one vote here. The Assembly includes terrorism sponsors Cuba and Sudan, and 20 of the most corrupt nations, all possible donation recipients.
Proponents argue that redistributing cash and providing information and technology to the Third World is “for the good of mankind.” They forget that the U.S. is no longer a rich uncle but is $16 trillion in debt. Sen. Orrin Hatch has said: “The Senate should say no to such an egregious breach of the trust Americans have placed in us. Our current economic struggles are all the more reason to say no to a treaty that is all cost and no benefit.”
Presently, 34 senators oppose the treaty, blocking its ratification. Main supporters are Senators John Kerry and Dick Lugar — the “internationalists” who believe the U.S. must become more involved in global affairs, not as a free world leader but as one among equals.
Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation expert said: “By getting 34 senators in opposition, we have won a big battle. But Sen. Kerry is unlikely to give up very easily …”
Let’s keep it dead.
Quentin Wagenfield, retired from Rockwell Collins as a technical writer and programmer, is a freelance writer from Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org