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Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a January confirmation hearing that he intends to push for ratification. "We are now laying the groundwork for and expect to try to take up the Law of the Sea Treaty. So that will be one of the priorities of the committee, and the key here is just timing -- how we proceed."
The Senate is gearing up to ratify a decades-old U.N. treaty that critics warn could create a massive U.N. bureaucracy that could even claim powers over American waterways.
"You have to pay royalties on the value of anything you extract (from the deep seabed), those royalties to be distributed as the new bureaucracy sees fit, primarily to landlocked countries and underdeveloped countries," said Steven Groves, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. American money would also go to fund the International Seabed Authority, which Groves warned "would have the potential to become the most massive U.N. bureaucracy on the planet."
"The whole theory of the treaty is that the world's oceans and everything below them are the common heritage of mankind," said Groves. "Very socialist."
President Reagan's initial opposition on the basis of seabed laws forced the rewriting of the original treaty in 1994, which led the U.S. to sign it, but not to ratify it.
Its complexity, however, still beguiles even experts, who say it is unlikely to be understood when brought to a vote in the Senate.
The United States strongly objected to the provisions of Part XI of the Convention on several grounds, arguing that the treaty is unfavorable to American economic and security interests. The U.S. felt that the provisions of the treaty were not free-market friendly and were designed to favor the economic systems of the Communist states.
Pro-ratification arguments - National security: The U.S. military, which relies heavily on its ability to freely navigate on and fly over the sea, has been a strong advocate of UNCLOS. In the absence of treaty law, the US relies on customary law that can change as states' practices change. Also, under this customary law, the Pentagon claims that countries often make unreasonable and irresponsible claims on marine territory that frustrates U.S. military action. The U.S. has tried to work around these claims, but without a legal framework to support them, the Pentagon believes it risks compromising its intelligence and military operations at sea.
Taxation: The license fees and taxes levied on economic activities in the deep seabed area by the ISA would be, in effect, a form of 'taxation without representation'. Citizens would be indirectly taxed through business and governmental activities in the area.
Economics: Businesses can already exploit resources from the international area; ratifying the treaty would force them to buy licenses for that right and pay taxes on the proceeds.
Limited control over funding: The U.S. would have no direct control over how the money is used.