Senate Poised to Surrender U.S. Powers

Contact: Christine Hall, 202.331.2258

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2007—The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is poised to vote Wednesday morning on an international sea treaty that would harm U.S. interests.

The United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) would:

  1. Threaten U. S. sovereignty. Once the U.S. became a party to the treaty, any number of issues could be adjudicated by a LOST tribunal. It is not clear what are the limits on the issues that could be taken up by LOST. Jurisdiction over anything that affects the oceans directly or indirectly could be asserted. The majority of members of the tribunal adjudicating any particular issue is likely to be hostile to U.S. interests. Tribunal decisions cannot be appealed and could be enforced in U.S. federal courts.
  2. Facilitate United Nations global governance. The treaty’s reach extends far beyond international issues and disagreements into nations’ internal policies on a wide array of issues.
  3. Give the United Nations international taxing authority. It would give the new seabed authority power to tax American resource extraction companies that work in international waters.
  4. Accomplish backdoor implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. A claim before a LOST tribunal that industrial carbon dioxide emissions are leading to increasing acidification of the oceans and thereby threatening the world’s marine ecological resources would likely prevail. Other nations could decide how to respond to such a decision, but in the U.S., a private party, such as an environmental pressure group, could file suit in federal court to force the federal government to implement the tribunal’s decision. This is because in the U.S., ratified treaties have the same status as the Constitution, which is not the case in any other country.

Despite the implications of ratification, the Senate has held only two hearings on these important issues, both by the pro-treaty Foreign Relations Committee and both hearings featuring mostly pro-treaty witnesses.

For more information on the Law of the Sea Treaty, please see the recent study by CEI Bastiat Scholar Doug Bandow, The Law of the Sea Treaty: Impeding American Entrepreneurship and Investment. Also see earlier testimony by Fred Smith.