1994 Agreement gave U.S. Permanent seat in Council of international seabed authority with significant ability to affect votes
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Perhaps the most significant change for the United States concerned decision-making within the International Seabed Authority. Article 161 of the Convention established a sophisticated decision-making procedure calling for different levels of enhanced majorities depending on the type of decision being made. Section 3 of the Part XI Agreement restructured this procedure by establishing a system of ‘‘chambered voting’’ within the Seabed Authority’s governing Council, to protect minority interests while at the same time allowing majority rule under a one-nation one-vote system. This approach was originally advocated by the Nixon Administration in 1970 when it outlined a system of decision-making for the body that eventually became the International Seabed Authority.
As modified in 1994, the Council, which is the main decision-making body of the International Seabed Authority, now consists of 35 members and has four distinct ‘‘chambers’’ of nations representing different interest groups. One chamber consists of four of the nations with the world’s largest economies, with a specific seat allocated to the United States (if it ratifies the Convention) and one reserved for an Eastern European nation. The second chamber consists of four of the nations that have made the largest investments in deep seabed mining. The third chamber includes four of the nations that are net exporters of the minerals to be mined from the sea floor, including at least two developing countries that rely heavily on the income from these minerals. And the fourth chamber consists of all the other developing nations that are elected to the Council. All questions of substance must be adopted by a two-thirds majority of the entire Council and cannot be opposed by a majority in any of the chambers. In other words, each chamber can veto any decision and block action. Certain key decisions can be made only if there is ‘‘consensus’’ of the entire Council.