U.S. is not losing out by not having a seat on CLCS
Even if U.S. had a seat on CLCS, they would have limited ability to influence the direction or decisions of the CLCS as members are required to act independently from their governments and in secrecy.
Despite UNCLOS's mandate that the CLCS examine a nation's claim to a physically connected continental shelf, problems arise with the Commission's structure. Sessions of the CLCS are secret."' The only nation that is privy to the CLCS deliberations is the one that submitted the scientific data purporting to support an extended continental shelf claim.20 Because the CLCS "considers itself bound by States' requests to keep their submissions information confidential,"21 the executive summaries of the CLCS sessions do not contain any details. Moreover, the CLCS process itself seems to be the only check on possible abuse by a nation making a fraudulent or erroneous extended continental shelf claim. Written interventions by nations that are not opposite from or adjacent to a submitting state are not allowed.
More importantly, having a “seat at the table” is just that – one nation, one vote. And, clearly, the last two decades have witnessed a continued decline in U.S. diplomatic and economic influence in multilateral negotiations (e.g., ￼Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production ￼and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (1997); ￼Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ￼(1997); Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998); 2008 Oslo ￼Convention on Cluster Munitions, to name a few.) Additionally, do the ￼authors really believe that Canada and Russia will change their positions ￼regarding the status of the waters of the Northwest Passage and the Northern ￼Sea Route/Northeast Passage or that they will rescind their illegal straight ￼baselines in the Arctic if the United States joins the Convention? Or that ￼China will change its position regarding the legality of military activities in ￼the EEZ or that Beijing will rescind its illegal straight baselines along its ￼entire coast or relinquish its illegal claims to the South China Sea islands and ￼their surrounding waters? U.S. accession to the Convention will have ￼absolutely no impact on these or other nations’ illegal maritime claims. The ￼only way to effectively challenge these excessive claims and prevent them ￼from becoming ingrained in customary law is through routine, firm and tar- ￼geted diplomatic protests by the State Department and frequent operational ￼challenges by DoD ships and aircraft. But to do that, we need to maintain ￼naval superiority, and have the political will to exercise it.
While I agree with Cartner and GoldJournal of Maritime Law & Commerce. Vol. 42, No. 1 (January 2011): 49-70. [ More (6 quotes) ] that membership on the CLCS would not harm US interests, they once again over-dramatize the importance of having a “seat at the table.” Statements like: “without a seat the US has neither eyes nor ears;” “informal networking . . . [would be] greatly restricted;” “a seat provides the government valuable strategic intelligence for little cost”; and “it would be better to have a representative at the table who would understand and report on the dynamics of the CLCS;” are not only inaccu- rate, but also reflect the authors’ lack of understanding of how the CLCS operates. The CLCS scientific and technical guidelines are publicly available on the Internet.19 Members of the CLCS take an oath to “perform [their] duties as a member of the Commission . . . honorably, faithfully, impartial- ly and conscientiously (emphasis added).”20 Additionally, “in the performance of their duties, members of the Commission shall not seek or receive instructions from any Government or from any other authority external to the Commission [and] they shall refrain from any action which might reflect negatively on their position as members of the Commission (emphasis added).”21 What Cartner and Gold appear to be suggesting is that a U.S. member of the CLCS should act as a double-agent for the U.S. Government, secretly passing information to Washington on the deliberations of the Commission. Such behavior would clearly violate the member’s “solemn declaration” under Rule 10, significantly undermining U.S. credibility, and bringing discredit on the U.S. Government. "Commentary in Reply to “Is it Time for the United States to Join the Law of the Sea Convention”."
Since LOST explicitly declares that a country’s continental shelf does not include underwater ridges, the Commission’s readiness once again take up the Russian case begs the question: As so often happens in UN agencies, will political considerations influence the outcome?
The Commission currently has only two Arctic members, Russia and Norway. A simple majority vote by non-Arctic states – perhaps engineered by Russian pressure and/or bribes – could result in decisions that would be binding on all member nations. If the United States were a state party to LOST, it would likely still be outvoted, yet be obliged to accept the Commission’s unsatisfactory dictates.
In this case, the consequences of such a decision would be preposterous – even absurd: Russia would have sole economic rights to the vast natural resources of the central Arctic Ocean. This would essentially give Russia a virtual monopoly over the North Pole region.