Testimony of Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
The Treaty proposes to create a new global governance institution that would regulate American citizens and businesses, but which would not be accountable politically to the American people. Some of the Law of the Sea Treaty's proponents pay little attention to constitutional concerns about democratic legislative processes and principles of self-government, but I believe the American people take seriously threats to these foundations of our nation.
The Treaty creates a United Nations-style body called the "International Seabed Authority." "The Authority," as UN bureaucrats call it in Orwellian shorthand, would be involved in all commercial activity such as mining and oil and gas production in international waters. It is to this entity that the United States, pursuant to the Treaty's Article 82, would be required to transfer a significant share of all royalties generated by American companies royalties that would otherwise go to the U.S. Treasury for the benefit of the American people.
Over time, hundreds of billions of dollars could flow through the "Authority" with little oversight. The United States could not control how those revenues are spent. Under the Treaty, the Authority is empowered to redistribute these so-called "international royalties" to developing and landlocked nations with no role in exploring or extracting those resources. It would constitute a massive form of global welfare, courtesy of the American taxpayer. It would be as if fishermen who exerted themselves to catch fish on the high seas were required, on the principle that those fish belonged to all people everywhere, to give a share of their take to countries that had nothing to do with their costly, dangerous and arduous efforts.
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The most persuasive argument for the Law of the Sea Treaty is the U.S. Navy's desire to shore up international navigation rights. It is true that the Treaty might produce some benefits, clarifying some principles and perhaps making it easier to resolve certain disputes. But our Navy has done quite well without this treaty for the past two hundred years, relying often on centuries-old, well-established customary international law to assert navigational rights. Ultimately, it is our naval power that protects international freedom of navigation. The Law of the Sea Treaty would not make a large enough additional contribution to counterbalance the problems it would create.
Worse still, these sizable "royalties" could go to corrupt dictatorships and state sponsors of terrorism. For example, as a Treaty signatory and a member of the "Authority's" executive council, the government of Sudan which has harbored terrorists and conducted a mass extermination campaign against its own people -- would have just as much say as the United States on issues to be decided by the "Authority." Disagreements among Treaty signatories are to be decided through mandatory dispute resolution processes of uncertain integrity. Americans should be uncomfortable with unelected and unaccountable tribunals appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations serving as the final arbiter of such disagreements.
Even if one were to agree with the principle of global wealth redistribution from the United States to other nations, other UN bodies have proven notably unskilled at financial management. The UN Oil-for-Food program in Iraq, for instance, resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in corruption and graft that directly benefited Saddam Hussein and those nations friendly to Iraq. The Law of the Sea treaty is another grand opportunity for scandal on an even larger scale.