U.S. needs to be party to UNCLOS to participate in deliberations that are shaping treaty and its institutions
[ Page 18-19 ]
The new institutions created by the Law of the Sea Conven- tion could at times decide matters affecting high seas freedoms, and the United States could contribute to such decisions if it participated as a member of these institutions. For example, could the International Seabed Authority promulgate mining-related environmental regulations restricting the scope of permitted activities at deep seabed vents where living organisms, as well as polymetallic sulfides, are found? U.S. participation in the work of the Authority could help to ensure that non-mining activities on the deep seabed, such as bioprospecting for living organisms at deep seabed vents (a part of the multi-billion dollar marine biotech business), continue to be regarded as high seas freedoms.65 U.S. interests in high seas freedoms also provide one impetus for U.S. participation in the work of the Conti- nental Shelf Commission, another institution created by the Convention. Overly expansive coastal state assertions of continental shelves beyond 200 miles from baselines would reduce the area of the oceans in which rights and freedoms are subject to the fewest restrictions.66 The United States could most effectively counter such assertions by participating as a member of this Commission. These participation or process concerns are illustrations of the general claim that accession to the Law of the Sea Convention is important to U.S. leadership on oceans issues.
As the pre-eminent global maritime power, the U.S. has significant interests in the global effect of the Convention’s rules and their interpretation with many issues that of greater concern to us than to most other countries (for example, preserving freedom of navigation rights). Our adversaries view this as a weakness they can exploit and are shaping the course of the convention in ways adverse to U.S. interests while the U.S. remains on the sidelines, unable to participate in the discussion as a non-party.