U.S. non-party status to UNCLOS is hindering its ability to engage on international maritime issues
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Our non-party status is an obstacle that we must overcome in developing virtually any new multilateral maritime instrument. For example, the United States has long played a key role in the IMO to promote maritime safety and effciency and to protect the marine environment in the Arctic, but our leadership position is undermined by our current “outsider” status.
The United States has no “seat at the table” in matters concerning the convention, nor does it have a judge on the Law of the Sea Tribunal, or a decision maker or staff expert on the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf that convenes to review and approve claims to extended continental shelves. Moreover, despite the fact that the 1994 Part XI Implementation Agreement guarantees the United States a permanent seat on the International Seabed Authority and an effective veto on all key decisions of that body, as a nonparty, we simply cannot play that critical role. Without joining the convention, we have no means to formally represent our signifcant maritime interests as a global power, and guide the discussion interpret- ing and developing the law of the sea in the Arctic.
As the pre-eminent global maritime power, the U.S. has significant interests in the global effect of the Convention’s rules and their interpretation with many issues that of greater concern to us than to most other countries (for example, preserving freedom of navigation rights). Our adversaries view this as a weakness they can exploit and are shaping the course of the convention in ways adverse to U.S. interests while the U.S. remains on the sidelines, unable to participate in the discussion as a non-party.