The Clinton administration has signed a renegotiated version of the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty, which has been submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification. State Department officials claim that the revised treaty eliminates objectionable provisions pertaining to deep seabed mining, builds on a market-oriented approach to exploiting ocean resources, and supports American interests.
Although U.S. officials have won some modest improvements, the treaty still hinders seabed development and remains inimical to American interests. The convention would set up a burdensome UN bureaucracy to administer the oceans. The system would still force private firms to share their profits with, and provide free mine sites to, the new UN agency. The treaty would continue to apply anti-density and anti-monopoly provisions disproportionately to U.S. mining companies and might still allow the imposition of production limits. Last, the revised language, while not explicitly mandating technology transfers, remains a potential time bomb.
The Senate should reject the treaty and encourage interested countries to expand the decentralized, relatively informal arrangement that currently governs seabed mining and has served the international community well.