U.S. ratification of UNCLOS key to a number of maritime industries
Without the universally recognized legal regime governing the exploitation of the mineral resources of the deep-sea beyond the zones of national jurisdictions that UNCLOS provides, US companies will not assume the investment rights associated with such projects until it was clear who had “clear legal title” to the resources extracted.
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Opponents of UNCLOS claim that accession will also harm U.S. commercial interests in the world‘s oceans. The provisions on seabed mining, in particular, are seen as an attempt at international wealth redistribution.65 Additionally, there is a fear that the ISA would have the power to enforce an international tax on resources extracted from the seabed.66
Although these commercial concerns resonate with many economic conservatives, they are among the easiest to debunk, primarily by examining the economic consequences the United States will face if it does not accede. Claims to mineral rights in the Arctic are governed by UNCLOS provisions on an extended continental shelf, and the United States may lose these claims without representation on the ISA or State Party status.67 Additionally, many economic concerns ring hollow in the face of favorable opinions of the treaty by U.S. industries affected by such regulations.68 For example, the oil and gas industries have agreed to pay any tax levied on deep seabed extractions.69
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The vastness of ocean space and the limits of our knowledge concerning the oceans’ future economic potential also make it critically important that the United States plays a central role in the future implementation of the convention. The convention facilitates the conduct of marine scientific research to expand understanding of the marine realm. As knowledge increases and as technology advances, the oceans may hold enormous, and as yet only dimly perceived, potential. When coupled with America’s unrivaled capacity for technological innovation, new ocean uses may become essential to helping drive economic prosperity for future generations. In the midst of a historic economic crisis, the United States needs to position itself by joining the treaty in order to secure its share of ocean industries of the future and the high- paying jobs they will create.
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American energy and deep-seabed companies are at a disad- vantage in making investments in the OCS due to the legal uncertainty over the outer limit of the U.S. continental shelf, nor can they obtain international recognition (and, as a result, financing) for mine sites or title to recovered minerals on the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction. Even if U.S. firms were to unilaterally set out on their own, because the United States has negligible mineral-processing technology, they would have difficulty finding international partners to buy unprocessed minerals because they would have been obtained outside of the agreed regime.