Battle lines drawn for Law of the Sea Treaty
On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee kicks off a major new effort to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, and interested senators are already preparing behind the scenes for a protracted battle over the issue.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will testify before the committee Wednesday in the first of a series of hearings being planned by Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), who is leading the ratification effort for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, better known as the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The treaty, which came into force in 1994, established rules of the road for operating in international waters and set forth a regime for determining mineral and other rights beneath the ocean floor. Since then, 161 countries have signed on, as well as the European Union, but the U.S. Senate has not ratified it.
In an interview today with The Cable, Kerry said that he has lined up advocates and supporters of ratification from public- and private-sector constituencies to make the case for the need to ratify the treaty soon.
"I believe this can be done. There are major American businesses, gas and oil companies, mining companies, communications companies, all which have a huge interest in this. When the power of those interests is heard, senators are going to feel a sense of urgency. It is more urgent today than it has been at any time," he said.
Kerry also touted the support of national security officials and former officials from both parties and from several administrations. He said that in addition to the national security benefits of the treaty, America's economic woes gave the ratification effort an added urgency.
"This is a major effort for jobs," Kerry said, arguing that U.S. mining, mineral, and energy companies would all benefit. "The time is now because of the economic interest."
Kerry said that he wants to keep the debate away from partisan politics and argue the case for ratification on the facts and the merits of the treaty. That will be tough during a heated election season, and also because several senators strongly oppose it. ...