This morning at Capitol Hill Oceans Week, I spoke about the key role that oceans play in our economic recovery. America's waters have always been a strong economic engine. After all, more than half of Americans live in coastal watershed counties. And even though this area makes up only 17 percent of U.S. land area, those counties support about 66 million jobs. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that the blue economy is strong and growing.
And here is one thing we need to do to make sure that happens: ratify the Law of the Sea Convention. The U.S. Senate is now taking a hard look at having the U.S. join the Convention, which sets forth a comprehensive legal framework governing uses of the oceans. The Law of the Sea Convention will support American businesses and create American jobs, as well as bolster U.S. national security and promote energy security. We need to join the Convention now.
The economic benefits of this treaty are clear:
First, it will give our energy companies the certainty they need to make crucial investments and create jobs. The Convention would allow the United States to secure rights to the resources of our continental shelf beyond our exclusive economic zone (EEZ). For years, American oil and gas companies did not have the technological capability to take advantage of these provisions. Companies are now ready and able to explore this area, but they are only willing to make the substantial investments needed to extract these resources if they have maximum international legal certainty. As a party to the Convention, the United States would gain international recognition of our sovereign rights and therefore be able to give our companies this legal certainty.
Second, the Law of the Sea Convention will also help U.S. companies secure access to rare earth minerals, which are needed to make things like computers and cell phones. These important minerals are in high demand and are currently produced almost exclusively by China. Technological advances make deep seabed mining possible, but it's also very expensive. Any company exploring a mine site will insist on having a secure title to the site and indisputable title to the minerals that it will recover; only as a party could the United States secure such title for its companies.
The Convention would also afford the U.S. a seat at the table in developing and implementing law of the sea rules that reflects its maritime status.
Additionally, the United States is the only Arctic nation outside the Convention. As a party to the Convention, we would have a much stronger basis to assert our interests throughout the entire Arctic region.
And it will help us to urge other countries to preserve and protect marine habitats and species.
The Convention has strong bipartisan support from members of Congress and both Republican and Democratic past Administrations, as well as the U.S. military, relevant industry and other key stakeholders. Already, over 160 countries have signed onto this treaty. We need to join now in order to fully protect our navigational freedoms, economic rights, and the interests of our oceans' marine life. The oceans and the rules governing them will only increase in importance in the 21st century.
America has never been content to sit back and let others make decisions that could affect our security, our economy, or our environment. The benefits of this Treaty are too great to ignore, especially at this crucial moment in our recovery.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears on The Commerce Blog.