You may have seen the Web ads: “Five Secretaries of State from Former Republican Administrations Endorse Law of the Sea Ratification,” they declare. The point is obvious: If these grizzled foreign-policy veterans support the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), so should you.
But hold on. When it comes to LOST, it’s important to think for yourself before you decide whether to support or oppose a treaty that could cost the U.S. billions but deliver few, if any, benefits. As Heritage’s Steven Groves wrote a year ago:
Under current law, oil companies are required to pay royalties to the U.S. Treasury (generally at a rate of 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent) for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and off the northern coast of Alaska. The Treasury retains a portion of those royalties, while the rest goes to Gulf states and the National Historic Preservation Fund.
But if the U.S. was a member of LOST, it would be required to transfer a portion of that royalty revenue—now considered “international royalties”—to the International Seabed Authority, a U.N.-style organization created by the treaty and based in Kingston, Jamaica.
What would we get in return? “By virtue of its seat on the Council, the United States might be able to hinder decisions to distribute Article 82 revenue for purposes to which it objects,” Groves added. “Whether the United States would be steadfast in its objections to such distributions and whether the Assembly would make any such distributions without the consent of the Council are open questions.”
It’s not worth taking the chance, he concludes. “Instead of diverting U.S. revenues to such dubious purposes, the U.S. government should retain any wealth derived from the U.S. extended continental shelf for the benefit of the American people.”
As the Founding Fathers understood, it’s important to remain vigilant against any possible erosion of U.S. sovereignty. “International organizations seek to dictate fundamental aspects of Americans’ personal and professional lives,” Groves writes. “Committees whose members include egregious human rights violators such as Cuba, China, and Syria regularly admonish the U.S. to implement racial and gender quotas, and lecture American families on how to raise and educate their own children.”
It’s not clear why so many seem ready to hand over American sovereignty so cheaply. But Groves puts down a marker that anyone lobbying for LOST should consider: “The Founders did not risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor casting off the rule of King George III so that, two hundred years later, the United States could subject itself to the whims of unelected foreign bureaucrats and international lawyers. Sovereignty was essential to the founding of America in 1776, and it is essential to America today.”