U.S. has permanent veto over new amendments to the treaty but only after it has ratified it
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Article 316 of the convention has always required that most amendments be specifically ratified by a state before binding that state. The only exceptions to this requirement are for amendments to the Statute of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, Annex VI, and for amendments relating to provisions on seabed mining. Amendments to Annex VI can only be adopted “without objection” per Article 313 or by consensus. In either case, the United States can block passage if necessary to obtain the advice and con- sent of the Senate. President Reagan’s specific objection regarding amendments to seabed-mining provisions was remedied by the interaction of the 1994 agreement and the convention. Convention Article 161, paragraph 8(d) requires consensus of the ISA council to adopt amendments to Part XI, which contains the seabed-mining provisions. Section 3, paragraph 15(a) of the annex to the 1994 agree- ment provides the United States a permanent seat on the council by virtue of being the largest economy on the date of entry into force of the convention. Together these sections effectively give the United States a “permanent veto” over binding amendments to the seabed provisions of the convention. Similar to concerns regarding distribu- tion of benefits to national liberation movements, the United States must join the convention and claim a seat on the ISA to enjoy these protections against unfavorable amendments. Failure to join the convention and participate in the ISA risks “poisoning” the conven- tion to U.S. accession by the addition of unacceptable amendments.
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.