The Case for Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty

The Case for Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty

By Andrew Langer - November 28, 2012

The Stakes Have Rarely Been Higher

The Institute for Liberty (IFL) has come to the conclusion that ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty is the most important property rights and wealth building step that America can take to maintain our leading superpower status and to exponentially grow our economy.

There has been a tremendous amount of disinformation about this treaty. In fact, just earlier this year, IFL thought we knew the truth about what was termed “LOST” and we signed a letter opposing ratification. We, like so many other conservatives, were given bad information.

In light of the facts, IFL dropped our opposition to the treaty and we are now leading the conservative charge for its ratification. I am meeting everyday with conservative grassroots leaders to ask them to join me in this imperative course correction and we are making a great deal of progress. Conservatives love to debate, but we hate to be misled. Given what we know now, the treaty’s appropriate moniker should be LOTS.

Trillions 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 is what is at stake. Ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty will grow the U.S. economy while protecting our military and strategic interests around the world.

I am tired of losing out to China and Russia on the world stage. By not ratifying LOTS, the U.S. loses access to resources that lie in undersea regions that are outside of the current U.S. sphere of legal access – much in the same way that China and Russia are accessing oil that we have prevented ourselves from going after, now China and Russia are accessing vast amounts of rare earth minerals, and other critical minerals, that are essential to our economy and national security.

There Is a New Cold War

Russia and China, two of America’s most powerful strategic foes, are actively exploring the Arctic and Pacific for oil, gas and seabed mineral riches. The U.S. is not. Why? Because, Russia and China have ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty and the U.S. hasn’t. Without ratifying LOTS, the U.S. has no standing to apply for mining and drilling permits under international law.

Bottom line: there is a new Cold War taking place, and America is not winning. The seabed holds trillions of dollars of mineral resources. According to RT, a Russian/English news channel, Russian Foreign Ministry official Alexander Gorban last month stated his hope that “there will never be a “war for resources” – or an even “hotter” conflict – in the Arctic Region.” In the next breath, he then went on to reiterate that Russia is indeed "…trying to fight for the Arctic shelf…” Gorban is a close Putin ally and his acknowledgement that Arctic conflict is possible demonstrates the global stakes in play.

Russia is not alone in recognizing the value of the LOTS in the fight for global resource dominance. Five countries border the Arctic: Russia, the U.S. (via Alaska), Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland). However, only one country is ineligible to mine or drill those resources -- the U.S. That’s because the U.S. is not a member of the international body that grants title, or property rights, to countries to engage in the exploration of seabed resources. That body is called the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Admittance into that body is accomplished via ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

China is also utilizing LOTS and the ISA to aggressively pursue the wealth of the Arctic. According to a report by Elisabeth Rosenthal in the New York Times last month, “The Arctic has risen rapidly on China’s foreign policy agenda in the past two years,” said Linda Jakobson, East Asia program director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia. So, she said, the Chinese are exploring “how they could get involved.”

China is already playing the role of the Russia of the Pacific. Right now, China is exploring U.S.-based mineral claims in the Pacific and there is nothing the U.S. can do about it. China is acting within the framework of international law and the U.S., because we have not ratified LOTS, has no standing in the International Seabed Authority to challenge China’s abuses.

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Andrew Langer is the president of the Institute for Liberty. The Institute for Liberty is an organization dedicated to promoting American exceptionalism around the world. It is currently involved in projects focused on promoting free trade and global prosperity, as well as using conservative principles, like private property rights, to address the world’s most challenging problems.

Andrew Langer

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