Draft Republican Party Platform Opposes Law of the Sea Treaty

by Julian Ku

It is a draft platform, but these parts of the 2012 GOP Platform are certainly interesting. It appears to have strong language in favor of “American Exceptionalism” and American sovereignty.

Under our Constitution, treaties become the law of the land. So it is all the more important that the Congress — the senate through its ratifying power and the House through its appropriating power — shall reject agreements whose long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear. These include the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty as well as the various declarations from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. Because of our concern for American sovereignty, domestic management of our fisheries, and our country’s long-term energy needs, we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal, and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty and congratulate Senate Republicans for blocking its ratification. We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty, and we oppose any form of U.N. Global Tax.

Unlike Josh Keating, I don’t read this platform as “black helicopter” stuff.  I think there are reasonable policy arguments against all of the above treaties, especially UNCLOS.  I do agree, though, that this might herald an important policy shift. A majority of the GOP has previously supported US ratification of UNCLOS, but it looks like UNCLOS opposition is now going to be in the GOP mainstream.  And that means that US ratification of UNCLOS looks even more unlikely.


5 Responses

  1. I live in a country that has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention against all forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (among, I am sure, many other treaties that the Republican Party opposes). 

    To me, the classic Republican argument that somehow a UN Bureaucrat is now in charge of determining how parents in my country educate their children is, well, both baffling and unsupported by 22 years of practice. I can assure that not once has a UN officer knocked on the door of any parent that I know and that we take our sovereignty just as seriously as any other country. 

    So, it really interests me to read that there is indeed a reasonable policy argument to oppose these treaties. Could I ask that you elaborate a little bit more on those arguments? Because so far all that I have read is the “UN will invade Texas” kind of argumentation and -to be honest- that doesn’t really sound very convincing. 


  2. I would like to amplify AGD’s comment from the perspective of another person living abroad in a country where ratifying UN human rights conventions is seen as a routine exercise in sovereignty rather than an existential threat to it.

    The UNCLOS issue aside, it is hard to imagine what could be so ominous about treaties like the CEDAW, particularly given the established tradition of accompanying the ratification instrument with a stack of reservations longer than the treaty itself. Same for the Persons with Disabilities Convention, given that the Americans with Disabilities Act still seems to set a standard many other Western democracies can only aspire to. 

    So I would also be quite interested in knowing more about the reasonable policy arguments against ratification of these treaties. Giving these arguments more prominence would be helpful in combatting the impression that the Republicans are cynically pandering to xenophobic tendencies in the base at the expense of an important but flawed international institution that has never looked more hapless than it does right now. 

    And can anyone fill me in on the UN Global Tax proposal? That one sure flew past me. Wonder if the Republicans might not better turn their attentions to the US Global Tax, which has become rather more ‘ominous’ for hundreds of thousands of American families living abroad:


  3. I attended the 2012 session of the International Seabed Authority in July as an observer. Having served on Reagan’s final delegation to the LOS Conference in 1982, I was struck by how closely the ISA has conformed to the objectives Reagan set for us in returning to the negotiations in 1982 and the firm commitment of everyone there to the 1994 Agreement on Implementation that incorporated all six of Reagan’s criteria for an agreement that he would sign. The ISA in both law and practice meets or exceeds the objectives first established by Richard Nixon and reaffirmed and expanded by Ronald Reagan.

    The session also approved an additional 5 exploration agreements (bringing the total to 17) conferring exclusive access to mineral deposits and priority for approval of exploitation contracts in the future. It adopted regulations for exploration and approval of claims to cobalt crusts (adding to the regulations previously approved for nodules and polymetallic sulfides), putting the ISA far ahead of the moribund “Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act of 1980” that has received absolutely no attention from Congress since the late 1990s. 

    With every other nation with capability to conduct deep seabed mining a party to the LOS Convention and legally bound to NOT recognize claims of exclusive access or title to recovered minerals, US non-party status has effectively foreclosed Reagan’s objective of opening a domestically operated source of critical minerals from the deep seabed. Given that Reagan, after his nearly year-long review of the Convention, was satisfied with the rest of the Convention, the ideological opposition to the Convention combined with the 1994 Agreement on Implementation is only accomplishing a demonstration that participation by the United States in a global regime is no longer a requirement for success and that the US can no longer be assumed to the the “indispensable nation” in global affairs.

  4. Please note in my comment above that parties to the Convention are bound to NOT recognize claims of exclusive access rights or title to recovered minerals by non-party states. They do, of course, recognize such rights for states parties following the provisions of the convention and the processes approved by the ISA.

  5. Response…
    It seems that it would take some explaining to the public why ratification of a treaty requiring equality for women in “public” fields, rights of children, and equal rights of persons with disabilities will predictably produce “ominous” long-term impacts on “the American family.”
    It may be just as silly as the Republican warning from Lubbock, Texas that a U.N. military force is about to invade that Texas town.

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