Freedom of navigation is key to global economic prosperity
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Freedom of navigation also underpins global economic prosperity. The oceans, wrote Professors McDougal and Burke, were a “spatial extension resource, principally useful as a domain for movement.”20 With the increasing trend in global trade, exercising the freedom to navigate on the seas is becoming even more important. This trend is accelerating in an era of globalization. “Shipping lanes are getting busier,” reports the Wall Street Journal, “not just from Asia to North America and Europe, but within Asia.”21 The initial rise of the globalized economy, which began in mercantilist Europe, can be attributed in large part to unimpeded ocean transit. Four hundred years ago, the legal scholar Hugo Grotius cogently set forth the commercial doctrine that fueled international trade. “For do not the ocean,” Grotius wrote, “navigable in every direction with which God has encompassed all the earth, and the regular and occasional winds which blow now from one quarter and now from another, offer sufficient proof that Nature has given to all peoples a right of access to all other peoples?”22 The model of freedom of the seas also is regarded as the logical analogue for developing the legal regime for outer space.23
Indeed, global commerce, travel, and information have greatly contributed to the growing wealth of nations and to the stability of the post-Cold War international system. The world's seas, air, space, and-more recently- cyberspace also play critical roles in states' national defense and their ability to conduct military operations worldwide. The United States relies on freedom to operate in the commons in order to protect the U.S. homeland and its vital national interests.