Revenue sharing agreements in UNCLOS are not a reason to reject the treaty
Opponents of UNCLOS often point to the royalty payments required under Article 82 of the convention as a reason to reject ratifcation. However, on closer examination many of the criticisms of the revenue sharing agreeements do not hold up. The actual amount the U.S. would have to pay pales in comparison to the revenues that would be generated, a significant reason why industry represenatives have consistently been in favor of UNCLOS. Additionally, the concern that royalty payments would go towards anti-U.S. states and non-state actors could be mitigated if the U.S. were a full member of the treaty.
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Opponents of the Convention often cite its imposition of royalties on ECS production as an important reason to reject the Convention. Under the Convention, parties must make payments to the ISA based on the value of resources extracted from sites on their extended continental shelves. Production companies would be able to keep the entire value of production at each site for the first five years, subject to any licensing fees imposed by the U.S. Government. Payments to the Seabed Authority would begin at 1% of the value of production in the 6th year of exploitation at a site and rise 1% per year to a maximum of 7% in the 12th year and following years. These royalty rates were negotiated by the U.S. Government with extensive input from U.S. oil and natural gas interests. As oil and natural gas companies have recognized, the royalties are reasonable in view of the immense value of the resources that would be made subject to the United States’ exclusive sovereign jurisdiction. The oil and natural gas companies – and the U.S. Treasury – would be able to retain much more than the U.S. would be required to pay to the Seabed Authority. Notwithstanding the required payments to the Seabed Authority, joining the Convention would be overwhelmingly beneficial to U.S. economy and the U.S. Treasury.
Regarding the third concern, the taxation on resource extraction in exclusive economic zones amounts to just over 2 percent on average, a price that mining and hydrocarbon companies have signaled they are willing to pay as the world’s energy markets hunger for new resources and prices of commodities climb. As for revenue redistribution, opponents too often overlook the fact that following renegotiation of the Law of the Sea, the United States is guaranteed the only permanent veto on how funds are distributed. It is also exempt from any future amendments to the treaty without Senate approval. In other words, the United States would enjoy a position of unequaled privilege, not unfair treatment, within UNCLOS.