Low tide for ocean treaty
Narrow interests hold broad sway over Congress. The military and diplomats often don't agree on foreign relations. Environmentalists and business interests tangle whenever development and nature collide. It's a wonder anything ever gets done.
Even more wondrous is that in Washington, nothing can get done even when that multitude of disparate interests agrees on a vital issue.
Tuesday, in the Capitol, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made an extremely rare appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and practically begged for ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Eight years of negotiations on the treaty ended in 1982 and it has been in force since 1994. The United States is the only major maritime nation not to ratify the treaty, which has been approved by 162 nations plus the European Union.
The treaty replaces four separate earlier agreements. It establishes freedom of navigation as an international norm and allows country to claim offshore rights to fisheries and minerals beyond the three-mile limits that used to be standard.
As Mrs. Clinton pointed out, the U.S. oil and gas industry has claims to vast oil and gas claims along the Atlantic continental shelf, but won't commit to developing them without a ratified treaty. And without ratification, the United States might not be able to compete with Russia and China for energy resources in the Arctic.
Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey pointed out that the treaty ensures free movement of the world's largest and most active navy - that of the United States.
The treaty is supported not only by the Obama administration but past presidents including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. It has the support of the shipping industry and major environmental groups.
Treaty critics contend that the treaty is a loss of U.S. sovereignty, even though the United Nations has no role in administering the treaty.
This agreement is in America's interest. The Senate should ratify it this year.