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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Brief History of U.S. Efforts Relating to the Law of the Sea


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1958 Four Law of the Sea conventions are adopted. Following Senate approval, the United States ratifies these treaties in 1961.

1970 President Nixon’s Ocean Policy Statement proposes the negotiation of a new multilateral treaty setting forth a legal framework for the oceans, including provisions that would treat the resources of the deep seabed as the common heritage of mankind.

1973-82 Negotiation of the Law of the Sea Convention. Convention is finalized on December 10, 1982.

1982 President Reagan states that the United States will not sign the Convention due to its provisions relating to deep seabed mining.

1983 President Reagan’s Ocean Policy Statement declares that the United States will accept and act in accordance with the provisions of the Convention relating to traditional (non-seabed) uses of the ocean, such as navigation and overflight.

1990-94 Negotiation of an Agreement to modify the deep seabed mining provisions of the Convention. Agreement is finalized on July 28, 1994.

1994 The Convention and the 1994 Agreement are transmitted to the Senate for its advice and consent. Transmittal Package (S. Treaty Doc. 103–39).

2004 Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes 19-0 in support of joining the Convention. Senate Report (Sen. Exec. Rpt. 108–10; includes hearings). A vote of the full Senate does not take place.

2007 President Bush urges the Senate to approve U.S. accession to the Convention. Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes 17-4 in support of joining the Convention. Senate Report (Sen. Exec. Rpt. 110–9); SFRC Hearing Report (S. Hrg. 110–592). A vote of the full Senate does not take place.

2010 President Obama adopts the recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force, which strongly and unanimously support United States accession to the Convention. E.O. 13547.



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