How President Reagan Strengthened the Treaty

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan called for renegotiation of some of the Law of the Sea Treaty is deep seabed mining provisions. The negotiations resulted in the 1994 Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI (the mining regime), which the United States signed. The Agreement made the Treaty significantly more favorable to the United States and addressed each of the important issues President Reagan raised. In some cases, it went further than what the United States was asking for. This chart summarizes the changes President Reagan called for and how the Treaty was strengthened.
Hear more from former Reagan official, The Honorable John D. Negroponte.

Read more from Rear Admiral William L. Schachte Jr. and director of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy at the University of Virginia and former Reagan official John Norton Moore.

 Reagan’s Issues Solutions in the 1994 Agreement Strengthened
The Treaty impeded development and production of deep seabed mineral resources.
  • The provision for setting production limits was eliminated.
  • Subsidies and impediments for seabed mining relative to land-based mining were prohibited.
  • To expedite mining activities, the International Seabed Authority is required to develop rules for exploration and development of new categories of mineral resources within two years of requests by member states.

U.S. access to seabed minerals was not assured, and development of these resources was not promoted.
  • Contract approval is based on clearly specified criteria that guarantee nondiscriminatory access to deep seabed mineral resources.
  • The contractor has access to commercial arbitration of contract disputes and the applicant has access to commercial arbitration to challenge denial of contract.
  • The enterprise is required to operate under the same contracts as private firms; initial operation of the enterprise is required to be in a joint venture with contractors.

Decision-making procedures under the Treaty did not protect U.S. economic and political interests.
  • The United States is guaranteed a permanent seat on the Council that governs the International Seabed Authority.
  • Assembly decisions on matters of substance cannot take effect without Council concurrence.
  • Consensus within the Council is required for the most critical decisions, including amendments to Part XI, adoption of rules and procedures and distribution of revenues.

U.S. ability to block Treaty amendments was not ensured.

  • Amendments to the non-seabed parts of the Treaty will not be binding on the United States without approval by the Senate.
  • Amendments to the seabed mining provisions must be approved by Council consensus, allowing the Unites States to use its permanent veto to block them.

The Treaty did not recognize the political and economic interests and contributions of member nations.
  • A Finance Committee was created, with a U.S. seat. Its decisions on the International Seabed Authority’s budget and its financial recommendations to the Council are made by consensus.
  • The secretariat is required to be of minimum size and operate within the bounds of its mandate.

Issues such as mandatory technology transfer and funding of rogue regimes threatened Senate approval.
  • The provisions that required mandatory technology transfer have been voided.
  • Only member nations have a role in the governance of the International Seabed Authority.  Distribution of revenues is subject to consensus of both the Finance Committee and the Council, giving the United States a permanent veto opportunity.