News / USA

US Congress Ponders International Sea Treaty

US officials Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta testify on Land of Sea treatyUS officials Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta testify on Land of Sea treaty
x
US officials Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta testify on Land of Sea treaty
US officials Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta testify on Land of Sea treaty
Michael Bowman
CAPITOL HILL - The Obama administration says the United States should join a global maritime treaty known as the Law of the Sea Convention. The convention has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, but is unlikely to advance before the November general election.
 
More than 160 nations belong to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs how nations may use the world's oceans and the resources they contain.  All major industrialized nations have ratified the treaty except the United States.  The Obama administration wants to change that, and dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Capitol Hill to argue for U.S. accession before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Before either could speak, committee chairman John Kerry made an announcement. "I would like to see this treaty stay out of the hurly-burly [distractions] of presidential politics.  So, heeding that advice, I announce today that I do not currently intend to bring the treaty to a vote before the November elections," he said.

Kerry nevertheless urged ratification. "Ratifying the treaty will lock in the favorable navigational rights that our military and shipping interests depend on every single day.  It will strengthen our hand against China and others who stake out claims in the Pacific, the Arctic, or elsewhere.  It will give our oil and gas companies the certainty that they need to make crucial investments to secure our energy future.  And it will help secure access to rare earth minerals which we need for weapons systems, computers, cell phones, and the like," he said.

Secretary of State Clinton echoed that view. "If we do not join the convention, our companies will miss out on opportunities to explore vast areas of continental shelf and deep seabed.  If we do join the convention, we unlock economic opportunities worth potentially hundreds of billions of dollars," she said.

Defense Secretary Panetta argued that adhering to international conventions strengthens America's moral authority when it comes to pressuring other states to do likewise.

"Every time we argue with Iran, every time we argue with North Korea, we argue on the basis that they are not abiding by international rules - they are not abiding by the international standards that we have established.  And here we are, trying to make the same argument with regards to navigation, and we are not even a member of the convention," Panetta said.

Those opposed to ratification say joining the Law of the Sea Convention would erode U.S. sovereignty.

"If the U.S. approves the treaty, it would be forced to transfer billions of dollars in royalties generated from oil and gas production on the U.S. extended continental shelf to the U.N. International Seabed Authority for redistribution to the developing world.  And this is the first time in history that an international organization, the U.N. in this case, would possess taxing authority over this country," said  Republican Senator James Inhofe.

Secretary Clinton noted that, as a member of the convention, the United States would have veto rights over royalty distribution.  And, she argued, the treaty's benefits far outweigh any costs. "Critics claim we would surrender U.S. sovereignty under this treaty.  But, in fact, it is exactly the opposite.  We would secure sovereign rights over vast new areas and resources," she said.

If congressional consideration is postponed until after the November elections, ratification would either be taken up in the so-called "lame duck" session before new legislators are sworn in - or by the new Congress, which will convene next year.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs