The Halloween vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOST) represents an attempt to trick the American people into accepting a fatally flawed agreement. This complex international treaty, if adopted, would directly threaten American sovereign rights on the high seas and will transfer American wealth to a new rouge international organization.
The stealth campaign in the Senate to have LOST ratified with little debate or discussion wants to ignore many of the major problems with the treaty. Instead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had only two hearings on it and only allowed two witnesses who were critical of LOST (two out of eleven total witnesses). No other Senate committee has held any hearings in this session of Congress on the broad military, economic and environmental implications of LOST. Never has a major international treaty received such superficial critical attention by the Senate.
As the most powerful and important sea-faring nation in the world, the United States has the most to lose and the least to gain from this agreement. At present American rights at sea are effectively guaranteed by a combination of existing treaties and agreements backed up by American military power. LOST would transfer jurisdiction of the seas over to a new United Nations entity that would be self-governing without an American veto power over its actions.
The United States wisely resisted joining either the International Criminal Court or the Kyoto Protocol on climate change because both agreements failed to guarantee existing American rights or fair treatment of our vital interests. Instead those treaties, like LOST, set up international rogue entities that could either curtail the rights Americans presently enjoy under the U.S. Constitution or required the United States to make exorbitant sacrifices compared to other countries.
LOST would take the United States into similar uncharted territory. For example, the United States has historically done more to protect freedom of the seas than any other nation in history, largely through exercise of real or potential military power at sea. Under LOST oceans are specifically reserved for “peaceful purposes” (Article 88) which could easily be interpreted as incompatible with American naval activities, particularly pertaining to intelligence gathering or the movement of submarines.
The profound economic implications of the agreement have also been ignored. LOST establishes a new international entity called the International Seabed Authority (ISA). It would regulate seabed activities, such as mining, and is specifically given responsibility for overseeing the “equitable sharing” of economic benefits coming from such mining. The ISA would have authority to become an international taxing agency with the largest share of such taxes falling on American businesses that have the risk capital and ingenuity to mine at sea.
While no taxes would be imposed for the first five years of production, a 1% tithe would go to the ISA in the sixth year eventually rising to 7% of the value of production in the 12th year. Moreover these rates could be changed, presumably upward, at the whim of the ISA. This would provide a steady and rapidly growing stream of revenue to an international entity in which the United States Government would only have only marginal influence. It truly would be taxation without representation. Most likely the revenue would flow to the kleptocracies that comprise much of the United Nations.
Not only should a number of Senate Committees investigate many of the potential implications of the ratification of LOST, but also the House of Representatives should be involved in the process. LOST impinges on the Constitutional jurisdiction of the House by raising taxes in the United States and spending revenue from those taxes overseas without any accountability to the Congress.
This is a deeply flawed treaty that President Reagan rejected. It hasn’t been fixed. The Senate needs to do its duty to the American people: hold more hearings so Senators are educated on what is actually in this treaty. Such investigation should lead the Senate to allow LOST to stay and to join the International Criminal Court and Kyoto Protocol in the dustbin of dysfunctional agreements.