NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reasons to Reject the Law of the Sea Treaty

April 24, 2013

Oceans cover 71 percent of Earth's surface. As the new focal point of the environmental agenda, oceans are the subject of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty, called LOST. With Secretary of State John Kerry recently outlining the importance of oceanic conservation, a new attempt to ratify LOST should not be surprising, though its ratification would be a disaster, say Iain Murray, an adjunct fellow, and H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow, at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • LOST intends to socialize/internationalize the ocean by declaring the world's oceans "the common heritage of mankind."
  • Under LOST, any development of ocean resources on the seabed outside the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone off the coast of every sovereign state would require a permit from the treaty's new governing organization called the International Seabed Authority.
  • The Authority would require payments or contributions from states or their sponsored contractors to support developing countries.

LOST is essentially a new world government of the sea that redistributes wealth and seeks to control supply and demand of oceanic resources.

  • The Authority believes that it can create worldwide growth through production and price controls, which will ensure supplies to consumers while promoting just and stable prices.
  • The Authority also has the ability to set up its own company, like a nationalized industry, that would directly explore and exploit resources for the international organization.
  • Central economic planning by the Authority would obstruct free market forces and almost certainly result in the misallocation of resources.

Only the free market is best suited to pick winning or losing proposals. LOST seeks to stop seabed mining, which will result in more mining on land. The end result will be interference in the free market, which subsidizes land-based mining operations and denies the entire world access to seabed resources.

  • The treaty also gives international environmental lobbyists the power to stop economic development and establishes a permanent court to police the treaty.
  • If LOST is ratified into law, its binding directive would provide the platform the environmental movement to minimize emissions of carbon dioxide.
  • The funds transferred from LOST to developing countries could subsidize dangerous regimes in countries that have no access or history of activity on the ocean.

For these reasons, the United States should reject the treaty.

Source: Iain Murray and H. Sterling Burnett, "Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) Should Walk the Plank," Master Resource, April 19, 2013. Iain Murray, "LOST at Sea," National Center for Policy Analysis, March 25, 2013.


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