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Why LOST? Why now?

By Henry Lamb
web posted March 22, 2004

Part XI of the Law of the Seas Treaty is right out of an Orwellian novel. A magnificent International Seabed Authority is created, which will operate a state-of-the-art production facility called the "Enterprise" - a world-government-owned operation to mine the mineral riches of the seabed, and distribute its wealth for the "common heritage of mankind" - after expenses, of course.

The treaty demands that the technology of developed nations be shared with the Enterprise first, and then with developing nations; that any other mining operation in non-territorial seas pay an exorbitant application fee, and royalties as much as 12%; that member nations finance the International Seabed Authority and the Enterprise; that all treaty organs and entities be immune from lawsuits, search and seizure, and from any accountability to anyone, other than its own member nations, each of which has one vote.

Ronald Reagan rightly rejected this treaty in 1982.

Since no U.N. enterprise is meaningful without U.S. participation, LOST proponents decided to scrap as much of the treaty as was necessary to get the U.S. on board. Part XI was "renegotiated" during the Clinton years, and was signed by President Clinton and advanced to the Senate for ratification.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee "studied" the renegotiated treaty until 2000, and then sent it back to the President.

At the request of the State Department, the current Foreign Relations Committee studied the treaty again, on October 14, and 21, 2003, and on February 24, unanimously voted to send the treaty to the full Senate for ratification, in hopes of a voice vote, with no further debate or a recorded vote.

Nothing has changed about the treaty. It is the same treaty that was rejected by the Foreign Relations Committee in 2000. What is different is the Chairman of the Committee, Richard Lugar (R-IN), instead of Jesse Helms (R-NC).

Nine people were invited to testify in behalf of the treaty. No one was allowed to speak in opposition to the treaty.

Assistant Secretary of State, John Turner, spoke of the treaty in glowing terms, and then yielded to the State Department's legal advisor, William H. Taft IV. Taft's assignment was to convince the Senators that the changes made to the treaty by the 1994 renegotiation made it a great treaty that would bring many benefits to the U.S.

Taft told the committee: "With a guaranteed seat on the Finance Committee of the International Seabed Authority, we would have an absolute veto over the distribution of all revenues generated from this revenue-sharing provision."

Actually, the treaty says: "Until the Authority has sufficient funds other than assessed contributions to meet its administrative expenses, the membership of the Committee shall include representatives of the five largest financial contributors to the administrative budget of the Authority." (Agreement Section 9(3))

There is no guaranteed seat on the powerful Finance Committee, once the Authority has sufficient funds to cover its administrative expenses. Moreover, there is no "absolute" veto granted. Procedural decisions are to be taken by a majority vote. "Decisions on questions of substance shall be taken by consensus" (Agreement Section 9(8)).

This is precisely the same language that the Foreign Relations Committee rejected in 2000. Why should the Foreign Relations Committee, or the U.S. Senate, now find it to be acceptable?

Taft revealed a fundamental flaw in the State Department's thinking when he told the committee that "...the convention give[s] the United States the right to regulate fisheries in the largest EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) in the world...."

The United States already has this right, acquired by Presidential Proclamation 5030, March 10, 1983. Ratification of the treaty simply subordinates this right to the rules and regulations of a U.N. body.

In fact, this treaty can provide no benefit or right that the United States does not already possess. Ratification by the U.S. would benefit every other state party - at the expense of the United States.

Were there no other flaw with this treaty, Article 2 provides sufficient reason for its rejection. This Article requires of every state party, that: "... sovereignty over the territorial sea is exercised subject to this Convention and to other rules of international law."

A "yes" vote for this treaty is a vote to surrender sovereignty over our territorial seas to an international power.

The hope for a non-recorded voice vote is fading fast. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has scheduled additional hearings in the Energy and Public Works Committee, March 23. Senator Inhofe has asked to hear opposition testimony that Senator Lugar would not allow.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • Law of the sea by dark of night by Paul M. Weyrich (March 8, 2004)
    Sen. Richard Lugar was never the perfect conservative but you could always count on him to be fair. Paul M. Weyrich wonders what happened that that Richard Lugar
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