The 1994 Agreement explicitly dealt with and resolved concerns U.S. had with ratifying UNCLOS
In 1994, the U.S. and other developed nations lobbied and won a number of significant concessions and amendments to UNCLOS that addressed the concerns that previous administrations had with the treaty, including provisions over tech transfer and resource sharing.
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Another change affecting decision-making was the establishment of a Finance Committee, made up of representatives of 15 countries, which has the power to control the budget of the International Seabed Authority. The United States, if it ratifies the Convention, would have a guaranteed seat on the Finance Committee, as one of the five largest financial contributors to the Authority which are automatically elected to the Committee. Because decisions of the Committee on substance must be made by consensus, the United States (along with the other members of the Committee) will effectively have a veto on the budget of the International Seabed Authority. This change was important in the Clinton Administration’s decision to support ratification of the 1982 Convention.
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The argument that perhaps the renegotiation of PartXI won’t be binding after all and that we will be stuck with the old Part XI. This argument, of course, is flatly at odds with Article 2 of the renegotiation agreement which provides “[i]n the event of any inconsistency between this Agreement and Part XI, the provisions of this Agreement shall prevail.” It is at odds with the experience of the United States from 1994 through 1998 when we participated in the Authority on a provisional basis. It is at odds with the practice of the International Seabed Authority toward nations which had adhered to the Law of the Sea Convention before the renegotiation in treating them as fully bound by the renegotiation agreement. It is further at odds with the practice of the Authority in establishing a chambered voting system, a Finance Committee, and mining contracts, all of which are based on the renegotiation agreement. And it is at odds with the official Compendium of Basic Documents: The Law of the Sea published in 2001 by the Seabed Authority that not only has an extensive section rewriting Part XI to fully take account of the renegotiation, but which begins this section by noting: “[i]n the event of any inconsistency between the Agreement and Part XI, the provisions of the Agreement shall prevail.”20 To my knowledge, not a single nation in the world has advanced this argument asserted by critics. More importantly, on an issue of such importance, the United States would have not only the legal right to leave the Convention, but given our insistence on the renegotiation we would be expected to exercise our denunciation right under Article 317, should a serious effort be made to set aside the renegotiation of Part XI. This argument, then, simply throws up another horrible without noting that the alternative recommended, not moving forward with adherence, will immediately have continuing substantial costs for the United States, which, unlike the imagined horrible, are neither contingent nor imaginary;
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In 1994, more than 100 nations adopted a set of rules governing deep seabed mining. The 1994 agreement applies free market principles to deep seabed mining, establishing a mechanism for vesting title in minerals in the entity that recovers them from the ocean floor. The agreement establishes an International Seabed Authority (ISA) with responsibility for supervising this process. The ISA is an independent international organization— not a part of the United Nations.
It is governed by a Council (with principal executive authority) and an Assembly (which gives final approval to regulations and budgets). As a party to the Convention, the United States would be a permanent member of the Council and have the ability, under relevant voting rules, to block most substantive decisions of the Authority, including any decisions with financial or budgetary implications and any decisions to adopt rules, regulations, or procedures relating to the deep seabed mining regime.
The 1994 agreement also recognized the longstanding view that the deep ocean floor is part of the global commons and beyond the reach of national jurisdiction. The agreement addresses in full all concerns identified by President Reagan a decade earlier. Technology transfer requirements—a principal objection in 1982—were deleted from the agreement.
The 1994 agreement is a legally binding modification of Part XI the Law of the Sea Convention.
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U.S. Technological Advantage. It is true that the 1982 form of the convention mandated private technology transfer detrimental to U.S. national security and economic interests. That was one of the factors specifically cited when President Reagan rejected the convention. Article 144 of the convention does encourage technology transfer, calls for parties to “cooperate in promoting the transfer of technology and scientific knowledge,” and remains in force following the adoption of the 1994 agreement but does not mandate technology transfer. Such transfer, mandated by Annex III Article 5 of the convention, was eliminated by section 5 of the annex to the 1994 agreement. Additional protection against national security damage through technology transfer is provided by Article 302 of the convention: “[N]othing in this Convention shall be deemed to require a State Party, in the fulfillment of its obligations under this Convention, to supply information the disclosure of which is contrary to the essential interests of its security.”
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[MYTH]: The 1994 Agreement does not even pretend to amend the Convention; it merely establishes controlling interpretive provisions.21 This is nonsensical. The Convention could only have been formally “amended” if it had already entered into force. The 1994 Agreement was negotiated separately to ensure that the Convention did not enter into force with Part XI in its flawed state. The 1994 Agreement made explicit, legally binding changes to the Convention and has the same legal effect as if it were an amendment to the instrument itself.22
A letter signed by all living former legal advisers to the U.S. Department of State, representing both Republican and Democratic administrations, confirms the legally binding nature of the changes to the Convention effected by the 1994 Agreement. Their letter states, “The Reagan Administration’s objection to the LOS Convention, as expressed in 1982 and 1983, was limited to the deep seabed mining regime. The 1994 Implementing Agreement that revised this regime, in our opinion, satisfactorily resolved that objection and has binding legal effect in its modification of the LOS Convention.”23
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[MYTH]: The problems identified by President Reagan in 1983 were not remedied by the 1994 Agreement relating to deep seabed mining.24 Not true—in fact, each objection has been addressed. Among other things, the 1994 Agreement:
- Provides for access by American industry to deep seabed minerals on the basis of nondiscriminatory and reasonable terms and conditions.25
- Overhauls the decision-making rules to accord the United States critical influence, including veto power over the most important future decisions that would affect U.S. interests and, in other cases, requires two-thirds majorities that will enable the United States to protect its interests by putting together small blocking minorities.26
- Restructures the regime to comport with free market principles, including the elimination of the earlier mandatory technology transfer provisions and all production controls.27
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MYTH: The problems identified by President Reagan in 1983 were not remedied by the 1994 Agreement relating to deep seabed mining. Each objection has been addressed. Among other things, the 1994 Agreement:
- provides for access by U.S. industry to deep seabed minerals on the basis
- of non-discriminatory and reasonable terms and conditions;
- overhauls the decision-making rules to accord the United States critical influence, including veto power over the most important future decisions that would affect U.S. interests and, in other cases, requires supermajorities that will enable us to protect our interests by putting together small blocking minorities;
- restructures the regime to comport with free-market principles, including the elimination of the earlier mandatory technology transfer provisions and all production controls.
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The United States has not ratified UNCLOS because it initially objected to part XI of the treaty, as did many other developed nations.110 The objections to part XI were based on economic and security concerns.111 Part XI recognized the region of seabed and ocean floor beyond the jurisdiction of any state to be the common heritage of humankind.112 Part XI, therefore, requires states to share the financial benefits113 from activities within the region as well as the related technology.114 ￼ ￼ In response to the objections to these provisions, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution to encourage the United States and other objecting states to ratify UNCLOS.115 This resolution, known as the Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, allows countries to ratify UNCLOS without being bound to part XI.116 Given that the United States may ratify UNCLOS without part XI, the benefits to the development of offshore wind power are one of the many reasons for the United States to ratify UNCLOS.117
Myth: President Reagan thought the treaty was irremediably defective.
Reality: As explained above, President Reagan identified only certain deep seabed mining provisions of the Convention as flawed. His 1983 Ocean Policy Statement demonstrates that he embraced the non-deep-seabed provisions and established them as19 official U.S. policy. The 1994 Agreement overcomes each of the objections to the deep seabed mining provisions identified by President Reagan. As President Reagan’s Secretary of State, George P. Shultz, noted in his recent letter to Senator Lugar, “It surprises me to learn that opponents of the treaty are invoking President Reagan’s name, arguing that he would have opposed ratification despite having succeeded on the deep sea-bed issue. During his administration, with full clearance and support from President Reagan, we made it very clear that we would support ratification if our position on the sea-bed issue were accepted."
The changes set forth in the 1994 Agreement meet our goal of guaranteed access by U.S. industry to deep seabed minerals on the basis of reasonable terms and conditions. The Agreement overhauls the decision making procedures of Part XI to accord the United States, and others with major economic interests at stake, decisive influence over future decisions on possible deep seabed mining. The United States is guaranteed a seat on the critical decision-making body; no substantive obligation can be imposed on the United States, and no amendment can be adopted, without its consent.
The Agreement restructures the deep seabed mining regime along free-market principles. It scales back the structure of the organization to administer the mining regime and links the activation and operation of institutions to the actual development of concrete interest in seabed mining. The International Seabed Authority has no regulatory role other than administering the mining regime, and no ability to levy taxes.
A future decision, which the United States and other investors could block, is required before the organization's potential operating arm (the Enterprise) may be activated, and any activities on its part are subject to the same Convention requirements as other commercial enterprises. States have no obligation to finance the Enterprise, and subsidies inconsistent with GATT/WTO are prohibited. Of particular importance, the Agreement eliminates all requirements for mandatory transfer of technology and production controls that were contained in the original version of Part XI.