Congress facing Law of the Sea Treaty

Press Release from National Center for Public Policy Research on an important issue facing a possible vote in Congress this month.

If You Approve of Dragging Pro-Democracy Demonstrators from their Beds at Night, You’ll Love the Law of the Sea Treaty

Washington, D.C. – Just as the Bush Administration has stepped up its human rights pressure on the Burmese ruling junta in light of that regime’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, it is simultaneously taking a substantial step to increase the junta’s influence over Americans, says the National Center for Public Policy Research.

It is doing this, the National Center says, by supporting U.S. ratification of the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty. The Burmese junta serves on the Finance Committee of the intergovernmental body, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which administers the treaty.

The ISA is charged with, according to treaty supporter Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), “administering the exploration and exploitation of minerals in areas of deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction” under the treaty.

The ISA itself describes the role of its Finance Committee as “oversee[ing] the financing and financial management of the Authority… [the Finance Committee has a] central role in the administration of the Authority’s financial and budgetary arrangements.”

If the U.S. were to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, as a Finance Committee member, Burma would, in conjunction with 14 other member states, have the authority to propose to the ISA the level of “accessed contributions,” that is, payments, to the ISA from countries such as the United States. “A provision of [the treaty],” notes Baker Spring, Brett D. Schaefer and former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, writing for the Heritage Foundation, “…would impose direct levies on the revenues of U.S. companies generated through the extraction of resources from the deep seabed…”

Serving on the Finance Committee with Burma through December 2011 are China, Russia, Japan, France, Indonesia, India, Jamaica, Italy, Britain, Brazil, Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic and Uganda.

Furthermore, says National Center Vice President David Ridenour, “Until this year, the Burmese junta served on the International Seabed Authority’s 36-member Council, the ISA’s governing body, until it was replaced by that paragon of human rights and democracy, Vietnam. This provides a glimpse of how badly the deck is stacked against the U.S. under the Law of the Sea Treaty.”

“Nevertheless,” said Ridenour, referring to the fact that U.S. ratification of the treaty is expected, “the Senate appears poised to say ‘hit me.'”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose hearings on the Law of the Sea Treaty have been notorious for their bias toward ratification, will hold another hearing on the treaty today. The Committee held a hearing on the Burmese junta’s human rights record yesterday, at which it condemned the junta.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, D.C.