Economy

Businesses push US to ratify Law of the Sea treaty

PTI Washington | Updated on March 12, 2018

American businesses are urging the US to ratify the UN Law of the Sea Treaty, saying it is needed to boost crucial domestic energy production and end China’s near-monopoly on rare earths.

Stepping up pressure on legislators to sign off on the 30-year-old pact, a broad alliance of manufacturers, miners, shippers and oil explorers said doing so would guarantee their exclusive access to economic resources reaching up to 600 miles from the US shoreline.

With China controlling 95 per cent of the world’s rare earths production, ratification of the treaty “offers the best path to break China’s dominance,” Roger Ballantine, a board member of The Association for Rare Earth (RARE), said yesterday.

Mr Ballantine, speaking at a news forum on the eve of a Senate hearing on the treaty, said that failure to ratify the treaty “will only worsen a very troubling disadvantage America has.”

His comments came against the backdrop of an escalating trade dispute with China over restrictions on its rare earths exports.

Yesterday, the US, European Union and Japan ratcheted up their complaint at the World Trade Organisation by asking for a dispute settlement committee after consultations failed.

The United States is the only industrialised power which has yet to ratify the treaty.

RARE has joined a broad coalition of the National Association of Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Shipping of America, defence contractors, energy industry and other groups to press for ratification.

Supporters argue that ratification will give US businesses the legal framework for investment in costly, high-tech exploration and development.

Key among its advantages, they say, would be to legitimise US claims to vast areas of the energy-rich Arctic, and unfettered access to lay and maintain undersea communications cables.

It would also give greater access to undersea rare earth minerals, which are widely used in smartphones, flat-screen TVs, medical equipment and US defence systems.

Opponents say the treaty could actually limit US businesses access to undersea mineral wealth, by giving power to the International Seabed Authority to decide access rights; they also say the treaty could impinge on the movements around the world of the US Navy.

Published on June 27, 2012

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