U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/25/2004
 
Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Law of the Sea Convention

U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea Oversight Hearing
March 23, 2004
I want to express my strong support for the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. And I would urge that the full Senate give its advice and consent to the Convention as soon as possible.

The United States can no longer afford to postpone full participation in this important international agreement. Simply put, becoming a party to the Convention is vital to our national security interests. It is vital to our economic interests. It is vital to our efforts to conserve ocean resources and protect the marine environment. And time is running out.

The Convention will be open for amendment later this year. If the United States is not a party by that time, we will not be at the table when important decisions are made regarding the future direction of the Convention. This will obviously inhibit us from pursuing and protecting our interests.

I want to thank Senator Lugar and the rest of the Foreign Relations Committee for the fine job they did in crafting a resolution for advice and consent. That resolution, and the declarations that it contains regarding the official U.S. interpretation of certain provisions, should dispel any concerns that Senators might have with U.S. participation in the Convention.

This is an issue that I care about a great deal and one that I have been involved in for a long time. As a former Navy officer who was on the first U.S. military ship to navigate the Suez Canal when it reopened, I understand the importance of freedom of navigation to our national security interests.

During my tenure in the House of Representatives, I served as an observer on the U.S. delegation to the Law of the Sea negotiations. Since that time I have maintained a strong interest in the Law of the Sea as a comprehensive legal framework for managing the many uses of the oceans.

My work in the Congress on environmental issues has also reinforced the importance of promoting the sustainable management of ocean resources and protection of the marine environment.

I would also remind my colleagues that this is not a partisan issue. And we must beat back any effort to make it one. Nor is this an issue that caters to the interests of one particular constituency. Indeed, I have seldom seen an issue marked by such widespread agreement across the political spectrum. The bipartisan, Presidentially-appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy has expressed its unanimous support for full U.S. participation. I am sure that Paul Kelly, who is here today on behalf of the Commission, will have more to say on this.

I would ask unanimous consent to submit for the record a letter from retired Admiral James D. Watkins, the chairman of the Commission, reiterating the Commission's support.

I would also point out that the U.S. Department of Defense supports this treaty. Key segments of U.S. industry, including the oil and gas industry, support the treaty. And the environmental community supports it. How often does that happen in this day and age?

The United States Department of Defense, and especially the U.S. Navy, favor full U.S. participation because the Law of the Sea protects and enhances the global mobility of military operations that is so crucial to our national security. As evidence of the Navy's support, I would ask unanimous consent to submit a letter from Admiral Vern Clark, the current Chief of Naval Operations, expressing his strong support for full U.S. participation in the Law of the Sea.

Similarly, key industrial and commercial interests also support U.S. participation in the Law of the Sea for several reasons. The Convention codifies important navigational rights and freedoms. It confirms that coastal States such as the United States enjoy exclusive rights to the resources of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. And it secures the sovereign rights of coastal states such as the United States to explore and develop the natural resources of their continental shelf areas.

As testament to the support that the Convention enjoys from various segments of industry, I would ask unanimous consent to submit letters of support from The American Petroleum Institute; The International Association of Drilling Contractors; The National Ocean Industries Association; The Chamber of Shipping of America and The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

All of these letters are urging the United States to become a party to the Law of the Sea. Finally, the environmental community also supports U.S. participation in the Law of the Sea. This is because the Convention sets forth a comprehensive legal framework obligating states to conserve and manage living marine resources and to protect the marine environment from all sources of pollution.

As evidence of the environmental community's strong support for full U.S. participation, I ask unanimous consent that the following letter, signed by the leaders of eleven major environmental groups, be placed in the record.

I would also ask unanimous consent to submit for the record a letter from the Pew Oceans Commission supporting the Convention and urging Senator Frist to schedule floor action at the earliest opportunity.

To conclude, I want to emphasize that achieving our oceans policy objectives in all of these areas requires international cooperation. Full participation in the Law of the Sea provides the best opportunity for the United States to engage in such cooperation in a manner that protects and extends U.S. interests.

Unilateralism is simply not a viable option on this matter.