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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Perhaps the most significant change for the United States concerned decision-making within the International Seabed Authority. Article 161 of the Convention established a sophisticated decision-making procedure calling for different levels of enhanced majorities depending on the type of decision being made. Section 3 of the Part XI Agreement restructured this procedure by establishing a system of ‘‘chambered voting’’ within the Seabed Authority’s governing Council, to protect minority interests while at the same time allowing majority rule under a one-nation one-vote system. This approach was originally advocated by the Nixon Administration in 1970 when it outlined a system of decision-making for the body that eventually became the International Seabed Authority.
As modified in 1994, the Council, which is the main decision-making body of the International Seabed Authority, now consists of 35 members and has four distinct ‘‘chambers’’ of nations representing different interest groups. One chamber consists of four of the nations with the world’s largest economies, with a specific seat allocated to the United States (if it ratifies the Convention) and one reserved for an Eastern European nation. The second chamber consists of four of the nations that have made the largest investments in deep seabed mining. The third chamber includes four of the nations that are net exporters of the minerals to be mined from the sea floor, including at least two developing countries that rely heavily on the income from these minerals. And the fourth chamber consists of all the other developing nations that are elected to the Council. All questions of substance must be adopted by a two-thirds majority of the entire Council and cannot be opposed by a majority in any of the chambers. In other words, each chamber can veto any decision and block action. Certain key decisions can be made only if there is ‘‘consensus’’ of the entire Council.
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Eventually a compromise was formed that, understandably, recognized certain political and economic realities by giving more power to the wealthier nations and securing the rights of private and intellectual property over redistribution. The United States and Russia were given permanent seats on the Council without being specifically named.
An amendment to Article 161 of the Convention under Section Three of the Agreement’s Annex facilitates this permanent seat without actually naming the United States as its occupant: “The Council shall consist of . . . the State, on the date of entry into force of the Convention, having the largest economy in terms of gross domestic product.” Russia, another industrialized State, is virtually guaranteed a seat on the Council as well, by the requirement that chamber (a) include the “State from the Eastern European region having the largest economy in that region in terms of gross domestic product.”104
A Finance Committee was created, consisting of the five largest contributors to the ISA budget, which would effectively give these nations veto power over any of the Councils decisions.105 The Committee would remain in effect until the ISA became “cost- effective.”106 And a consensus of the Committee was required to approve “any decision by the Council or Assembly with budgetary implications.”107
But most importantly, the teeth of the Enterprise were effectively removed. The changes to the treaty in Annex III of UNCLOS regarding the rules of prospecting, exploration, and exploitation completely remove any obligation to freely share information or technology with the Enterprise.
“[Annex III] removes the requirement that parties contracting with the Authority agree to make methods and technology available to the Authority. The Agreement instead provides that the Authority may request cooperation from contracting parties.”108 It only requires it share those willingly, perhaps at a fair market price. “The Agreement also makes clear that contractors entering into joint venture agreements with the Enterprise are under no obligation to finance any part of the Enterprise’s mining operation.”109
With these changes. UNCLOS better reflects the political and economic realities of today’s world. Although these compromises might have put most of the ISA’s power in the hands of the developed world, they have also created an agreement the whole world can live with.
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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.