US delay in ratifying UNCLOS has had real economic and political costs in terms of lost opportunities and leadership credibility
Further delay in U.S. accession to the Convention, of course, bears risks and costs for the United States. The Convention became open for amendment for the first time in November 2004. This means that our ability to participate in consideration of any such amendments will be limited. The work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is proceeding: and as a non-party to the Convention, the United States is not eligible to submit a claim for the delineation of its broad outer continental shelf, which could hamper efforts to develop the resources of the shelf. More generally, by staying outside the Convention, the United States risks calling into doubt its commitment to the balance of interests codified in the Convention for uses of the oceans. In the long run, this could serve to undermine the order and stability on the oceans fostered by the Convention, to the detriment of U.S. interests and of all users of the oceans.
U.S. failure to ratify UNCLOS raises fundamental questions regarding not only the future of legal regimes applicable to the world’s oceans, but also U.S. leadership in promoting international law and order.
Additionally, our partners lose confidence in the ability of the United States to make good on its word when we negotiate and sign treaties but don’t ultimately become party to them, especially as in the case of UNCLOS where the U.S. negotiated aggressively to win valuable concessions and won them.