U.S. accession to UNCLOS necessary to restore international maritime leadership
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Advocates against U.S. accession believe it would disadvantage U.S. interests and place the U.S. under the thumb of the ISA.168 The assertion that U.S. interests will be lost in the sea of interests of the other 167 Member States is misplaced.169 U.S. interests have not been represented, in part, due to its 33-year absence.170 The deep seabed mining framework continued to develop and gain popularity despite the U.S.’s absence.171 Only by acceding to UNCLOS, will the U.S. regain its proper place as a world leader in shaping the law of the sea while representing its own interests in the proper international arena—before the ISA.172
When the treaty was still gaining its sea legs, the U.S.’s influential impact was evident through its ability to band seven industrialized nations173 into forming the Provisional Understanding, an agreement that operated outside the ISA’s purview.174 After the ISA declared the Provisional Understanding “wholly illegal” under UNCLOS, all seven members of the treaty essentially abandoned the U.S. and ratified the treaty in the 1990’s.175 The realization that the ISA’s deep seabed mining was becoming increasingly appealing became a significant factor in the U.S. diminishing influence over matters relating to the law of the sea.176
The United States has historically been the world leader in protecting the common interest in navigational freedom and the rule of the law in the oceans. However, America has temporarily lost that leadership by its continued non-adherence to UNCLOS. U.S. accession to the Convention will restore that role and advance U.S. leadership in Arctic Ocean issues.