The Case for Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty
Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty makes the conservative case for ratifying the Law of the Sea by arguing that the U.S. has too much to lose by remaining outside of the treaty with "[t]rillions of dollars, global property rights for U.S. interests, critical navigation rights, and veto power over an international fund that could end up in adversarial hands" at stake.
Myth: Conservatives have never supported any treaty or international policy framework that mirrors the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Fact: Conservatives laud the work of Peruvian economist and political scientist, Dr. Hernando DeSoto, who theorized about why states with strong property rights protections are economically prosperous and politically stable. DeSoto talks about the importance of "clearing title" in his research. He writes quite favorably about the settlement of the American West, in which territory acquired by the United States was parceled out by the federal government, who in turn, cleared title to the to those parcels in order to secure settlement. And while the state governments could have done this themselves when they transformed from territories to states, they decided to send that title clearing and parceling responsibility to the federal government.
Had they not, chaos would have ensued, and the West would not have been settled.
That is, in essence, what the Law of the Sea Treaty does. It puts the responsibility for clearing title and parceling out the commons in the hands of the International Seabed Authority, allowing for a strong framework of property rights to give interested parties the certainty to make their investments.
The use of property rights to inform public policy problems isn't limited to land and conservatives are working on certain projects to prevent degradation of commonly-held resources by applying the principles of private property rights within the oceans. Building on the work of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other libertarian organizations, IFL has been involved in the effort to apply private property rights to species conservation and replenishment. The work of former CEI Scholar Michael D'Alessi on oceanic fishery conservation has led to the creation of the Catch Shares program, which IFL has worked on in its "FairestCatch.org" initiative. In that effort, federal agencies are responsible for working with fishing councils to create private property rights in oceanic fish stocks-essentially parceling out the fish that can be caught and clearing title to those fish.
Myth: Ratifying the treaty will create a tax on US businesses. Fact: Wrong. The treaty creates U.S. property rights for vast mineral and oil wealth. The ISA simply grants permits to countries to mine and drill for resources thereby giving companies and countries title – something vital to the very foundation of property rights. One cannot hold a property right if one does not first have title. Once title is granted and resource development takes place, certain Reagan amendments go into effect. Ronald Reagan fought for certain mineral rights for the U.S. and he got them in the 1994 amendments to the treaty. That’s why Reagan’s former Chief of Staff, James Baker, supports ratifying the LOTS. Just as with any other resource development project, there is a royalty schedule: no royalty payments of any kind for the first five years of resource development and after five years the royalties cap at 7%. Right now, Russia, China and 161 other countries are eligible to exploit global resources, enrich their nations, fill the ISA coffers with royalties, and then direct ISA expenditures around the world. Once the U.S. ratifies the treaty, we would be granted 100% veto power as to how all ISA resources from all countries are allocated. That is why Condoleezza Rice endorses the treaty – the U.S. pays up to 7% for just our country, but we get veto power over 100% of the ISA coffers for every royalty from every country. That means zero global mineral and oil wealth payments from anywhere in the world going to rouge states. The only way the U.S. can accomplish this is by ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty and taking our seat at the ISA.
Myth: Ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty will create a United Nations bureaucracy. Fact: Not true. Ratifying the LOTS creates nothing. Ratifying the treaty will give the United States a seat on the already-formed International Seabed Authority. The International Seabed Authority has existed for over 20 years. The ISA is the international authority that grants exploration and mining and drilling permits to all nations. The ISA also creates clear, legally binding, protocols for ships while navigating foreign waters. This is long established, current international law. The U.S. opting not to join the ISA does nothing except prevent America from receiving mining and drilling permits, while also creating a gray area legally for our military and for U.S. companies when dealing with waterways belonging to foreign nations. That is why every U.S. business association, including the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, and every sitting military leader of a U.S. Command – including the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air force and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - supports the treaty’s ratification.