Statement on United States Actions Concerning the Conference on the Law of the Sea

July 9, 1982

The United States has long recognized how critical the world's oceans are to mankind and how important international agreements are to the use of those oceans. For over a decade, the United States has been working with more than 150 countries at the Third United Nations Conference on Law of the Sea to develop a comprehensive treaty.

On January 29 of this year, I reaffirmed the United States commitment to the multilateral process for reaching such a treaty and announced that we would return to the negotiations to seek to correct unacceptable elements in the deep seabed mining part of the draft convention. I also announced that my administration would support ratification of a convention meeting six basic objectives.

On April 30 the conference adopted a convention that does not satisfy the objectives sought by the United States. It was adopted by a vote of 130 in favor, with 4 against (including the United States) and 17 abstentions. Those voting ``no'' or abstaining appear small in number but represent countries which produce more than 60 percent of the world's gross national product and provide more than 60 percent of the contributions to the United Nations.

We have now completed a review of that convention and recognize that it contains many positive and very significant accomplishments. Those extensive parts dealing with navigation and overflight and most other provisions of the convention are consistent with United States interests and, in our view, serve well the interests of all nations. That is an important achievement and signifies the benefits of working together and effectively balancing numerous interests. The United States also appreciates the efforts of the many countries that have worked with us toward an acceptable agreement, including efforts by friends and allies at the session that concluded on April 30.

Our review recognizes, however, that the deep seabed mining part of the convention does not meet United States objectives. For this reason, I am announcing today that the United States will not sign the convention as adopted by the conference, and our participation in the remaining conference process will be at the technical level and will involve only those provisions that serve United States interests.

These decisions reflect the deep conviction that the United States cannot support a deep seabed mining regime with such major problems. In our view, those problems include:

-- Provisions that would actually deter future development of deep seabed mineral resources, when such development should serve the interest of all countries.

-- A decisionmaking process that would not give the United States or others a role that fairly reflects and protects their interests.

-- Provisions that would allow amendments to enter into force for the United States without its approval. This is clearly incompatible with the United States approach to such treaties.

-- Stipulations relating to mandatory transfer of private technology and the possibility of national liberation movements sharing in benefits.

-- The absence of assured access for future qualified deep seabed miners to promote the development of these resources.

We recognize that world demand and markets currently do not justify commercial development of deep seabed mineral resources, and it is not clear when such development will be justified. When such factors become favorable, however, the deep seabed represents a potentially important source of strategic and other minerals. The aim of the United States in this regard has been to establish with other nations an order that would allow exploration and development under reasonable terms and conditions.