Upon ratification, U.S. will accrue numerous opportunities to regain its maritime leadership role within UNCLOS
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Until our prolonged non-adherence to the 1982 Convention, the United States has been the world leader in protecting the common interest in navigational freedom and the rule of the law in the oceans. We have at least temporarily forfeited that leadership by our continued non-adherence. United States ratification of the Convention will restore that leadership. Specifically, ratification will have the following effects, among others:
- The United States will be able to take its seat on the Council of the International Seabed Authority. The authority is currently considering a mining code with respect to polymetallic sulfides and cobalt crusts of the deep seabed. Council membership will also give us important veto rights over distribution of any future revenues from deep seabed exploitation to national liberation groups;
- The United States should, at the next election of judges for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, see the election of a United States national to this important tribunal. Since this Tribunal frequently considers issues relating to navigational freedom and the character of the 200 mile economic zone it is a crucial forum for the development of oceans law;
- The United States should, at the next election of members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, see the election of a United States expert to the Commission. This Commission is currently considering the Russian claim in the Arctic that is of real importance for the United States (and Alaska) and for appropriate interpretation of the Convention respecting continental margin limits. Over the next few years the Commission will begin to consider many other shelf limit submissions, beginning next with Australian and Brazilian claims. This is also the Commission that ultimately must pass on a United States submission as to the outer limits of our continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The early work of the Commission, as it begins to develop its rules and guidelines, could significantly affect the limits of the United States continental shelf. Not to actively participate in the work of this Commission could result in a loss of thousands of square kilometers of resource-rich United States continental shelf;
- The United States will be able to participate fully in the annual meeting of States Parties that has become an important forum for ongoing development of oceans law. Of particular concern, United States presence as a mere observer in this forum has in recent years led to efforts by some to roll back critical navigational freedoms hard won in the LOS negotiations where we were a leader in the negotiations and our presence was powerfully felt; and
- The United States will be far more effective in leading the continuing struggle against illegal oceans claims through our participation in specialized agencies such as the International Maritime Organization; in bilateral negotiations such as those with the archipelagic states; in acceptance by other states of our protest notes and our ability to coordinate such notes with others; and generally in organizing multilateral opposition to threats to our oceans interests and the rule of law in the oceans.
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS would boost its leadership standing in a couple of ways. First, by acceeding to the treaty, the U.S. would immediately be able to participate in the discussion around the future of the treaty and participate in maritime forums that it had previously been locked out of. Secondly, by ratifying the treaty, the U.S. would improve its soft power by showing more of a willingness to cooperate multilaterally.