07 May 2009

POLITICS: Maritime Treaty Would Boost U.S. Interests, Report Says

Link to Article

WASHINGTON, May 6 (IPS) - The U. S. should quickly accede to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, according to a new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report.

Concluded in 1982 after some 15 years of negotiations, the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) is the international accord that sets rules governing most areas of ocean policy, including navigation, over-flights, exploitation of the seabed, conservation and research.

The report released by the influential think tank, "The National Interest and the Law of the Sea," contends that ratifying LOST would benefit U.S. national security as well as the country's economic and environmental interests. It would also help U.S. interests in combating piracy and in establishing its claims to the increasingly contested Arctic region, the report said.

"To fail to join the convention this year would be to lose a unique opportunity [as] the United States is experiencing a conjunction of circumstances that includes the 'fresh start' effect of a new administration, the ascendance of two national security strategies founded on conflict prevention and partnership building, and a community of nations eager for renewed American multilateralism," according to the report.

The nearly 30-year-old treaty has been signed and ratified by 156 countries and the European Community, though not by the U.S. It was rejected by then-President Ronald Reagan who, under pressure from big U.S. mining and energy companies, objected to its provisions for deep-sea mining, particularly its requirements that mining claims be regulated by a Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Reagan ordered the U.S. government to abide by all other sections of the treaty, which amounted essentially to a compilation and codification of existing international customary and maritime international law.

In 1994, the seabed provisions of the treaty were amended to satisfy U.S. objections, and the administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush subsequently supported its ratification, though it never received Senate approval. The Obama administration also supports ratification, which is currently pending in the Senate.

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