June 28, 2012

Economics, Security and Law of the Sea

This morning, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold its third hearing on the Law of the Sea Convention that will focus exclusively on the economic benefits of ratifying the treaty. The hearing will include testimony from business representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers and Verizon Communications. (Watch the hearing live here beginning at 9 AM).

Although the hearing will focus mostly on the economic benefits of ratifying the treaty, including securing rights to offshore energy and mineral resources, it is important to remember that securing rights to these resources has attendant benefits for U.S. national security as well. Increased production of domestic energy resources bolsters U.S. assured access to energy, which helps reduce the vulnerability from energy choke points in the Middle East and elsewhere. Meanwhile, ratifying the convention and putting U.S. companies in a position to secure recognized claims to offshore mineral resources such as rare earth metals that are used in a variety of high-tech applications, including defense platforms, helps reduce the U.S. vulnerability to relying heavily on Chinese exports of rare earths. (China produces 95 percent of the global supply of rare earths but only has 50 percent of the global reserves.)

On a related note, the American Security Project has published a short primer on the Law of the Sea that separates fact from fiction. (Check it out here.) And the Department of Defense has launched a new webpage on the Law of the Sea Convention akin to the State Department’s website. The DOD page includes speeches and testimony from the Secretary of Defense and senior military officials on the national security benefits of ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention.