The U.S. Senate has not ratified, and therefore the United
States is not a party to, the United Nations Convention on the Law
of the Sea, commonly known as the "Law of the Sea Treaty," or LOST.
The Bush Administration's fiscal year 2009 budget proposal,
however, requests nearly $5 million to fund the LOST organization
as well as the international tribunal established by the treaty.
The Administration's request is both fiscally irresponsible and
opposed to U.S. national interest. If it is not withdrawn, Congress
should reject the Administration's proposal and any other request
to provide funding for international organizations of which the
United States is not a member.
A Flawed Treaty
LOST is a controversial treaty that awards effective control of
70 percent of the Earth's surface to an international treaty
organization. The treaty purports to establish a comprehensive
legal regime for management of the oceans and its mineral resources
by an international organization known as the International Seabed
Authority (Seabed Authority). LOST, among other things, creates yet
another unaccountable and opaque international organization, sets a
precedent for international taxation of U.S. companies, provides an
avenue for international environmental regulation, and threatens
U.S. sovereignty by subjecting the United States and U.S. companies
to mandatory dispute resolution in international fora that have
traditionally been stacked against U.S. interests.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan identified serious flaws in
LOST and rejected the treaty on multiple grounds. An effort to "fix"
LOST during the Administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill
Clinton resulted only in a new agreement that failed to fully
address Reagan's concerns regarding the treaty. Despite the problems
with LOST and the failure of the subsequent agreement to address
those problems, the Clinton Administration signed the treaty on
July 29, 1994, and submitted it to the Senate for
Since then, LOST has remained in a state of limbo in the Senate,
where it has never been brought to the floor for debate or a vote
despite being successfully voted out of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee on at least two occasions. Unless and until it
is ratified by the Senate, the United States is not a party to LOST
and is under no obligation to provide funding for any activities
related to the treaty.
Despite the above problems, the Administration has requested
nearly $5 million for the two principal organs established by
LOST-$1.3 million for the Seabed Authority and more than $3.6
million for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, or
A Dangerous Precedent
As a nation that has not ratified LOST, the United States is not
a member of the Seabed Authority-the Kingston, Jamaica-based
international organization established under LOST to "organize and
control activities" for the ocean floor. The United States also has
not submitted to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and is not
obligated to participate in proceedings that may come before
The Administration has no business making a budget request
directed at subsidizing organizations of which the United States is
not a member. The United States is already obligated to supply
billions of dollars in funding to dysfunctional and mismanaged
international organizations such as the Untied Nations, the U.N.
Development Program, and U.N. Peacekeeping Operations.
Fulfilling the President's request would also pave the way for
funding other contentious treaties. Controversial and problematic
treaties were signed during the Carter and Clinton Administrations
that, like LOST, have never been ratified by the Senate.
For example, in 1980, the Carter Administration signed and
submitted to the Senate the Convention on the Elimination of all
Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a treaty that
purports to champion equal rights for women. Since then, the CEDAW
Committee-which monitors and implements the treaty-has, among other
odious acts, recommended that China decriminalize prostitution;
that Croatia and Italy force doctors to perform abortions without
regard to their conscientious objections to the procedure, and;
that Belarus ban Mother's Day since it promotes the role of women
CEDAW-and other treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, signed by the Clinton Administration in 1995-should not
be ratified by the Senate, much less funded by U.S. taxpayer
dollars. Funding LOST activities would create a dangerous precedent
that proponents of other treaties would use to their advantage.
U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund non-existent
obligations stemming from flawed treaties. LOST should not be
ratified, much less funded prior to ratification.
The budget request suggests an attempt by the White House to
fund the treaty through a back door after the Senate refused to
ratify it. Senators should be particularly irked that the
Administration is attempting to fund a treaty for which they have
not given their advice and consent. The White House should withdraw
its budget requests relating to LOST. If it does not, Congress
should ignore the requests and provide no funding for any
activities relating to the treaty.
Steven Groves is
Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center
for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage