December 21, 2007
By George Allen –
We must protect United States sovereignty. We must not blissfully give control of 2/3 of the earth's surface to an unelected, unaccountable, unrepresentative, burdensome, taxing, regulating and adjudicating global bureaucracy. I am referencing the negotiations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). President Ronald Reagan rejected the efforts to create an international authority that would ultimately control the world's sea beds.
LOST is back. Twenty-five years later, LOST is demanding our attention again. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently approved a revised version of the treaty and recommended it to the full Senate for ratification. With the support of the Bush administration, this treaty was recently passed through the Committee without adequate hearing from opponents. Opponents are now being heard, and Mr. Reagan's reasons for objecting to LOST are still very much at issue.
In rejecting LOST, Mr. Reagan saw the underlying dangers of the United States ceding its own authority and interests as a maritime power to an unaccountable international organization. Like its godfather, the United Nations, it would be controlled by countries which may have no maritime power and are often opposed to American interests. In 1994, the Clinton administration led efforts to revive LOST by making changes to the most objectionable parts of the treaty, and President Clinton signed it. But the 1994 amendments did not resolve many of the problems cited by Reagan and, in fact, there is a serious legal question as to whether the amendments actually altered the original treaty.
LOST creates an international regulatory structure that bears many of the hallmarks of a nascent global government, including the power to tax, regulate business interests and the environment, and exercise judicial authority.
Taxation.The International Seabed Authority (ISA) created by LOST has the authority to grant or deny permits for deep seabed mining, after exacting fees just to apply for permits and to collect part of the profits of such mining for redistribution to developing countries and "national liberation movements."
Economic Regulation. One of the ISA's stated purposes is to "protect land-based mineral producers in the third world from adverse economic effects of seabed production." Given the ISA's authority to grant or deny permits and to redistribute profits, this sounds an awful lot like the kind of cartel-style price-fixing and central planning that have proved disastrous in other economic sectors.
Technology Transfer. LOST requires all state parties to the treaty to "cooperate in promoting the transfer of technology and scientific knowledge" regarding deep sea mining. This mandate has already been used by China to obtain sonar technology from American companies in the 1990s when the Clinton administration said that the United States should abide by the technology-transfer requirements of LOST, even though the Senate had not ratified it.
Judicial Authority. We have already seen the extension of environmental regulation playing out in the judicial branch created by LOST, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Ireland has brought a case there seeking to halt opening of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant on land in Great Britain on the claim that it would raise water temperatures in Irish waters and pose a hazard to marine life. One can easily imagine the plethora of lawsuits that could be brought by states and international groups seeking economic advantage or to stymie U.S. interests.
An overarching danger of LOST is the precedent it would create: the concession of authority for governmental functions to an international organization over which the United States has little or no control. It would also give credence to an outmoded and failed redistributionist economic scheme where the people of those nations who innovate and invest are forced to relinquish revenue and technology to nations standing on the sidelines. To ratify this treaty would diminish the sovereignty of the United States and would enhance the authority of a remote, unaccountable supranational government over the seas and seabed.
The original purpose of LOST was to codify the laws of navigation and freedom of the seas. If it had stuck to its goals, instead of trying to break new ground in global governance and wealth redistribution, LOST would have been ratified years ago. U.S. maritime interests are currently functioning under the customs of international law and should continue to do so until we are ready to lead an effort to throw out LOST and start over. As Ronald Reagan said, "We have the means at our disposal to protect our oceans interests and we shall protect those interests if a comprehensive treaty eludes us."
Former Sen. George Allen, who also served as Virginia's governor, is the Reagan Ranch presidential scholar for Young America's Foundation.