The Law of the Sea has set international standards for fishing, deep sea mining, and navigation since the majority of the world's countries signed it in 1982. It provides coastal nations with exclusive rights to ocean resources within 200 nautical miles of their borders - areas known as "exclusive economic zones," or EEZs. The agreement also oversees an international tribunal to settle fishing, pollution, and property rights disputes, as well as the International Seabed Authority, a body formed to assign mining rights beyond the EEZs.
If the United States approves the treaty, the agreement would include the country with the largest EEZ in the world, while also potentially clearing the way for U.S. oil companies to mine the Arctic Ocean. The treaty already has support from a diverse coalition of U.S. interest groups that represent national security, industry, and the environment. Yet continued opposition from Republican lawmakers may stall ratification, in a test for whether the Obama administration can galvanize support for international environmental agreements, observers said.
Among the international treaties that President Obama supported during his campaign - including a nuclear test ban, a global bill of rights for women, biodiversity accords, and a renewed climate change agreement - the Law of the Sea is likely to face less opposition, according to observers. It is supported by a wide array of interest groups, including the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, international environmental groups, and the mining, fishing, shipping, and telecommunications industries.
The keys to international security, peace and prosperity are shared standards of human rights and justice. Click below to learn more about the foundations of international agreement on these values.