The More People Know About Sea Treaty, The Less They Support It

Statement of David A. Ridenour, Vice President, The National Center for Public Policy Research on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on the Law of the Sea Treaty this morning:

The more people learn about the Law of the Sea Treaty, the less they like it. 

That’s the message from this morning’s vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Although the Committee voted to send the treaty to the full Senate for consideration, there was a marked increase in opposition to it from just three years ago.  In 2004, it was approved 19-0.  This morning there were four nay votes.

The tide is turning against the Law of the Sea Treaty.  The full Republican Senate leadership opposes it as well as presidential candidates Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Senator Fred Thompson, Governor Mike Huckabee, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Duncan Hunter.

This explains why its supporters – including Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) – are in a rush to push it through before their colleagues can be alerted to the treaty’s fatal flaws.  They rejected a very reasonable request this morning by Senator David Vitter to delay the Committee vote for one week to allow additional expert testimony from those with concerns about the treaty.  Senator Vitter wished to correct the nearly 6 to one imbalance in favor of treaty proponents during the Committee’s hearings.

So desperate was Chairman Joe Biden for an affirmative vote for the treaty that he misrepresented both the treaty and President Ronald Reagan’s position on it during the Committee’s meeting today.  Biden asserted that President Reagan’s only objection to the treaty was the deep seabed mining provisions and that these provisions have been corrected.

Not a single word of the Law of the Sea Treaty has been amended since Ronald Reagan was president nor were these provisions his only objections.  As President Reagan noted in his diary on June 29, 1982, “Decided in NSC meeting – will not sign ‘Law of the Sea Treaty’ even without deep seabed mining provisions.”

It seems the only person Mr. Biden can quote correctly is Neil Kinnock, from whom he lifted a speech during a previous presidential run in 1987.

The treaty is a bad deal for the U.S. because it would…

* Complicate our efforts to apprehend terrorists or weapons of mass destruction by subjecting our actions to review by an International Tribunal that is unlikely to render decisions favorable to the U.S.

* Make our ships more vulnerable to terrorists or rough states by extending surfacing requirements for unmanned underwater vehicles used to detect mines when our ships exercise their rights of innocent passage through the territorial sea of another nation.

* Threaten the U.S.’s ability to set its own environmental standards.  The treaty requires us to “adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources” and shall endeavor to “harmonize” it regulations.  As Greenpeace notes, “”The benefits of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea are substantial, including its basic duties for states to protect and preserve the marine environment and to conserve marine living species.”

* Give control of a substantial portion of the ocean to a U.N.-style body, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), that will likely be less accountable than the U.N.  The ISA was established to be self-financing, deriving revenue not only from membership dues, but from mining proceeds, application fees and a cut of royalties.  The U.S. will have even less leverage in pushing for transparency and accountability than it does with the U.N. as threats to withhold contributions will be less meaningful.

* The treaty permits amendments without requiring nations to re-ratify it – even if the changes are substantial.  This not only is a blank check, but a stunning abdication of the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities.

This goes against Ronald Reagan’s advice, “trust, but verify.”

For more information, contact The National Center for Public Policy Research at (202)507-6398 or visit

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.