UNCLOS Key to Increasing Navigational Freedom
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Now what was at stake for the United States in this? At stake was access to these mineral resources, these huge mine sites that are equivalent to the largest in the world today. The aggregate value of the minerals in the mine sites we are going to lose if we do not move forward on this treaty, may be—hold on to your hats—one trillion dollars.19 Now just to put that into perspective, the total cost so far of the Iraq War is debated as being somewhere between a quarter of a trillion and three-quarters of a trillion dollars.20 This large amount, a trillion dollars may be at stake in access to critical minerals for the United States of America in going forward with this treaty.
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I am also pleased to suggest that, contrary to the nay-sayers who said that we would never win on these issues, a tough United States’ position prevailed. Indeed, the United States prevailed on all of the security provisions of the Convention— security provisions which were very much at stake in the negotiations. We fully preserved navigational freedom, including transit passage through, over, and under international straits.4 We extended United States’ resource jurisdiction into the oceans in an area larger than the entire land mass of the United States, and we insisted on assured access to seabed minerals for United States’ firms.5 In short, the Law of the Sea Convention and its negotiation remains one of the seminal negotiating successes of the United States throughout its history.
Moreover, the United States was not a bit player in all of this, nor was it an isolated participant. The United States was overwhelmingly the leader in this negotiation. This is in sharp contrast to what you may have seen in the negotiations for the Rome Treaty6 or for the Ottawa Treaty.7 This is one in which the United States led, and the United States won. There should be no mistake about that.
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Now, how about this new agency [International Seabed Authority] being a precursor for world government? Well, it has been in existence for twenty-five years. It has a staff of thirty-five, counting the secretaries, and it has a total budget of less than $12 million.21 World government? I do not think so. This is simply yet another run-of-the-mill international organization. There are hundreds, like the U.S.- Canadian Fisheries Convention, the International Maritime Organization, and many others. This is not something fundamentally different.
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Now let me also say that by those first principles, I am deeply disappointed at voices which continue to violate, it seems to me, those principles in this Law of the Sea negotiation. Allow me to present a few examples. Over and over again we hear voices urging that the Convention would give our sovereignty away. The Convention gives away not a single ounce of United States’ sovereignty. This is not only false, but it is absolutely upside down.
What was the reality of these negotiations? The reality is the greatest expansion of national resource jurisdiction in the history of the world. This was a coastal state win, hugely, not some kind of internationalist win for the straw argument Elisabeth Mann Borgese socialists24 that are cited over and over again by opponents.25 They lost one hundred percent. Some of the academic community did support that.26 They did not get anywhere near this Convention. This convention was a victory for nationalism and state sovereignty. And that is why you see the massive extension of 200-mile economic zones and continental shelves in this Convention.27