Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Law of the Sea Ratification Would Strengthen U.S. Economy and National Security Position
Press Release

RELEASE: Law of the Sea Ratification Would Strengthen U.S. Economy and National Security Position

Conservatives Still Oppose Based on Debunked Arguments, Despite Support of Military and Business Community

Read "Conservatives Disregard Traditional Allies to Oppose the Law of the Sea" by Michael Conathan
Read "China’s Rise Is a Big Reason to Ratify the Law of the Sea Convention" by Nina Hachigian

Washington, D.C. — Ahead of tomorrow’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, “The Law of the Sea Convention” and “Law of the Sea Convention: Perspectives from the U.S. Military,” both weighing the merits of ratification of the convention, the Center for American Progress today released “Conservatives Disregard Traditional Allies to Oppose the Law of the Sea,” demonstrating the significant economic benefits of ratification, explaining the broad support from the business community, and debunking claims made by opponents in the Senate. “China’s Rise Is a Big Reason to Ratify the Law of the Sea Convention,” also released today by CAP, focuses how ratification puts the United States in a stronger position as it works to integrate China into the international system.

Until the United States ratifies the treaty, no American companies will operate on the extended continental shelf. The United States has a clear choice: Agree to limited revenue-sharing under the treaty and bankroll more than 93 percent of total revenue from extended continental shelf and high seas activities, or get nothing at all and lose the ability to challenge claims made by other nations. Without becoming party to the treaty and gaining a seat at the negotiating table where decisions are made about how to partition out extended-shelf claims, we will be unable to assure industries that the international community will recognize a U.S. lease. In addition to the potential for oil and gas exploration and extraction in this area, American business interests also extend to tapping economically significant amounts of rare earth metals used in the production of many modern devices, from cell phones to missile systems—95 percent of which are currently produced in China.

“In continuing their efforts to delay ratification, staunch conservatives in the Senate show their extreme ideological and out-of-touch position by opposing a measure that even their strongest champions—Big Oil, the Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. military—assure them would secure U.S. economic and national security interests,” said Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress. “America’s failure to ratify the Law of Sea Convention leaves us cutting off our nose to spite our face, alienating other countries when we should be working with them to cooperatively govern emerging resources in the Arctic and more vital and accessible minerals on the deep seabed.”

Despite conservative claims to the contrary, the Law of the Sea Convention will uphold U.S. sovereignty, give the American government a means to prevent royalties from being distributed to countries we have designated as state sponsors of terrorism, and create separate management bodies to regulate multinational operations in international waters—without any U.N. role in management, implementation, or execution of the treaty.

Senate ratification of the treaty will put the United States in an even stronger position to preserve our freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas against any potential Chinese attempts to restrict our access, now and in the future. It will also allow us to be an even more forceful advocate for a rules-based process when it comes to territorial disputes in those waters and will lend Washington more credibility as it pushes China to follow international laws and norms. Because of our failure to ratify the convention thus far, the United States stands outside the international system that we champion. China, 161 other nations, and the European Union have all ratified the convention. The United States remains a “nonparty” to the convention, along with a handful of other nations, including some political pariahs such as Syria, North Korea, and Iran.

"Talk of EEZs [exclusive economic zones] can lead to ZZZs, but the United States has a lot at stake in ratifying the Law of the Sea convention,” said CAP Senior Fellow Nina Hachigian. “China is one very important reason, among others. The bottom line is that if the Senate ratifies the treaty, the United States will be in a stronger position to push back on China’s challenges to our freedom of navigation near its coastal waters and on its sometimes heavy-handed assertions of claims in the South China Sea. The best time to ratify would have been 20 years ago. The second-best time is now."

Read "Conservatives Disregard Traditional Allies to Oppose the Law of the Sea" by Michael Conathan
Read "China’s Rise is a Big Reason to Ratify the Law of the Sea Convention" by Nina Hachigian

To speak with CAP experts on this topic, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].

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