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U.S. Department of State 96/03/19 Fact Sheet: US Oceans Policy & Law of the Sea Convention Bureau of Public Affairs Fact Sheet U.S. Oceans Policy and the Law of the Sea Convention On July 29, 1994, the Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted and opened for signature at the United Nations in New York. The Agreement fundamentally changed the provisions of the Convention (Part XI) that establish a system for regulating the mining of mineral resources from the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction. The purpose of the Agreement is to remove the obstacles to the acceptance of the Convention that have prevented the United States and other industrialized countries from moving to become parties to it. The United States believes that the Agreement satisfactorily addresses long-held objections to the Convention's seabed mining provisions. Therefore, the United States signed the Agreement and has submitted the Law of the Sea Convention and the Agreement together as a package to the Senate for advice and consent. Entry into force of a widely accepted and comprehensive law of the sea convention--to which the United States can become a Party--has been a consistent objective of successive United States Administrations since negotiations began on such a convention over two decades ago. As of March 19, 1996, 87 governments are Party to the Convention, including Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Australia. Background: United States Oceans Interests The United States has important and diverse interests in the oceans. As the world's pre-eminent naval power, the United States has a national security interest in the ability to freely navigate and overfly the oceans as essential preconditions for projecting military power. The end of the Cold War has, if anything, highlighted this need. Ensuring the free flow of commercial navigation is likewise a basic concern for the United States as a major trading power, whose economic growth and employment is inextricably linked with a robust and growing export sector. By far, the bulk of international trade is transported by sea. At the same time, the United States, with one of the longest coastlines of any nation in the world, has basic resource and environmental interests in the oceans. The seabed of the deep oceans offers the potential for economically and strategically important mineral resources. Inshore and coastal waters generate vital economic activities--fisheries, offshore minerals development, ports and transportation facilities and, increasingly, recreation and tourism. The health and well-being of coastal populations--the majority of Americans live in coastal areas--are intimately linked to the quality of the coastal marine environment. Understanding the oceans, including their role in global processes, is one of the frontiers of human scientific investigation, and the United States is a leader in the conduct of marine scientific research. Further, such research is essential for understanding and addressing problems associated with the use and protection of the marine environment, including marine pollution, conservation of fish and other marine living species, and forecasting of weather and climate variability. Pursuit of these objectives, however, requires careful and often difficult balancing of interests. As a coastal nation, for example, we naturally tend to seek maximum control over the waters off our shores. Equally, as a major maritime power, we often view such efforts on the part of others as unwarranted limitations on legitimate rights of navigation. Moreover, traditional perceptions of the inexhaustability of marine resources and of the capacity of the oceans to neutralize wastes have changed, as marine species have been progressively depleted by harvesting and their habitats damaged or threatened by pollution and a variety of human activities. Maintaining the health and productive capacity of the oceans while seeking to meet the economic aspirations of growing populations also requires difficult choices. Striking the balances necessary to implement United States oceans policy must be viewed in the international context. Living resources migrate. Likewise, marine ecosystems and ocean currents, which transport pollutants and otherwise affect environmental interests, extend across maritime boundaries and jurisdictional limits. National security and commercial shipping interests are also international in scope. Achievement of oceans policy objectives thus requires international cooperation at the bilateral, regional, and global level. The alternative is increased competition, and conflict over control of the oceans and marine resources to the potential detriment of United States interests and the marine environment generally. The United Nations Convention On the Law of the Sea United States oceans policy has always had as a basic objective the application of the rule of law to the uses and conservation of the oceans. The United States was a leader in the international community's effort to develop an over-all legal framework for the oceans in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which began its substantive work in 1974. The resulting United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), concluded in 1982, provides a comprehensive legal framework governing uses of the oceans and the rights and obligations of States relating thereto. It achieved consensus on the nature and extent of jurisdiction that States may exercise off their coasts: a territorial sea of a maximum breadth of 12 nautical miles and coastal State jurisdiction over fisheries and other resources (e.g., oil and gas) in a 200 nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and on the continental shelf where it extends beyond the EEZ. It balances extended coastal State jurisdiction with provision for preservation and elaboration of rights of navigation and overflight in these areas and guarantees of passage through and over straits used for international navigation and archipelagoes. The Convention advances the interests of the United States as a coastal State. It achieves this, inter alia, by providing for an EEZ out to 200 nautical miles from shore and by securing our rights regarding resources and artificial islands, installations, and structures for economic purposes over the full extent of the continental shelf. These provisions fully comport with United States oil and gas leasing practices, domestic management of coastal fishery resources, and international fisheries agreements. The Convention provides for the conservation of marine living resources, including coastal fisheries populations, straddling stocks (fisheries populations whose range includes both areas of the EEZ and the high seas), and highly migratory species and marine mammals, such as whales. As a far-reaching environmental accord addressing vessel source pollution, pollution from seabed activities, ocean dumping, and land- based sources of marine pollution, the Convention promotes continuing improvement in the health of the world's oceans. In light of the essential role of marine scientific research in understanding and managing the oceans, the Convention sets forth criteria and procedures to promote access to marine areas, including coastal waters, for research activities. The Convention facilitates solutions to the increasingly complex problems of the uses of the ocean--solutions that respect the essential balance between our interests as both a coastal and a maritime nation. Through its dispute settlement provisions, the Convention provides for mechanisms to enhance compliance by Parties with the Convention's provisions. Early adherence by the United States to the Convention and the Agreement is important to maintain a stable legal regime for all uses of the sea, which covers more than 70% of the surface of the globe. Maintenance of such stability is vital to United States national security and economic strength. (###) [Box item] The Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI Of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea The new agreement--the Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention on the Law of the Sea--incorporates legally binding changes in the deep sea-bed mining provisions of the LOS Convention that satisfactorily address the objections of the United States and other industrialized countries. Generally, the new agreement will ensure that the United States, and others with major economic interests at stake, have adequate influence over future decisions on possible deep seabed mining and that the administration of the deep seabed mining regime is based on free-market principles. The reformed seabed mining provisions do not set forth a detailed system, seeking to anticipate all phases of potential activity associated with mining of the deep seabed. Instead, they set forth sound commercial and economic principles upon which to develop rules and regulations establishing a management regime for commercial mining when interest in commercial mining emerges. Specifically, the Agreement: -- Deletes the objectionable mandatory transfer of technology provisions; -- Includes provisions to ensure that market-oriented approaches are taken to the management of the resources of the deep seabed, replacing Part XI's interventionist and centralized economic planning approach; -- Scales back the institutions and links their activation and operation to the actual development of concrete interest in deep seabed mining; -- Guarantees the United States a seat on the Council of the International Seabed Authority, where substantive decisions are made by a chambered voting arrangement, the effect of which is to allow the United States and two other industrialized countries acting in concert to block a decision; -- Guarantees the United States and other major contributors seats on the Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over all budgetary and financial matters; -- Recognizes the seabed mine site claims established on the basis of the exploration already conducted by United States companies and provides assured access for any future qualified U.S. miners; -- Deletes the provisions that would have allowed amendments to enter into force for the United States without its approval; and -- Provides that the United States can block funding for liberation movements as distribution of revenues accumulated as a result of royalties can only take place on the basis of a consensus decision in the Council. [End box] March 19, 1996
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