Case 153 - The United States and the Law of the Sea Treaty
David, Steven R. and Peter Digeser
This case study traces the United States’ role in the lengthy negotiations that would ultimately lead to codification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It begins with the Nixon administration’s 1970 decision to submit its own proposal to the U.N. Seabed Committee, and then analyzes the evolution of Washington’s strategy during the various negotiating sessions (UNCLOS I, II and III) held between 1974 and 1982. Although the U.S. has never ratified the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty (as the agreement is generally known) the Clinton administration’s decision to recognize and abide by its terms when it came into force in 1994 suggests that the negotiating process advanced American interests. This case study illustrates the problems of conducting large-scale, multilateral negotiations over an extended period.