US viewed as hypocritical because it has not become a party to UNCLOS
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Formal membership prerogatives aside, given the conflation of UNCLOS and current customary law, U.S. membership in UNCLOS will reinforce customary law and give the U.S. a stronger basis to affect its development in the future. Ironically, U.S. isolationism from UNCLOS serves as the leading example for others who would selectively choose among UNCLOS provisions or even abandon it altogether, thereby eroding customary law. The U.S.’ current posture undermines the very legal principles the U.S. professes to support.
Today, not surprisingly, some find inconsistency and even hypocrisy in the U.S. practice of referring others to the Convention’s obligations without incurring reciprocal treaty obligations.97 U.S. arguments on substantive issues are burdened with the stigma of unilateralism, making it more difficult for states committed to the Convention’s processes and multilateral framework to support underlying U.S. arguments even where there may be basis for substantive agreement."
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.