Senator John Kerry advocates Law of the Sea Treaty in lecture


Ricky Llamas

Senator John F. Kerry spoke about the value of international law on Friday at the LBJ Library in a talk entitled “The Rule of Law in World Affairs”.

Tiffany Hinman

Sen. John Kerry said the United States’ delay on accepting the Law of the Sea Treaty is threatening our military’s navigational powers and our economic stability during a public lecture on campus Friday.

In his lecture, Kerry said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was first negotiated in the ‘70s and is known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, assigns certain areas of land under the oceans for use by specified nations. Close to 160 countries and the European Union have joined the treaty, but the U.S. has yet to sign because of fear of alloting power to developing nations. He said agreeing on the treaty would create an international order for conducting business, protecting rights and resolving disputes peacefully.

“By joining the treaty we could lock in a favorable set of navigational freedoms and maximize U.S. influence in treaty bodies,” Kerry said. “Law of the Sea is fundamentally a conservative and modest treaty that supports the military and the economic interest of our nation.”

Kerry has served as U.S. Senator representing Massachusetts since 1984. He was the Democratic Party nominee in the 2004 presidential election, and he assumed office as chairman for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in January 2009. Kerry said President Richard Nixon initially negotiated and supported the treaty in the 1970s, and President Ronald Reagan renegotiated it in the 1980s while expressing his disapproval. Kerry said though the treaty passed in the Senate in 2004 and 2007, the full Senate was not present to put the treaty into effect on either occasion. Kerry said he will try to push the treaty through the Senate again, but he will wait until after the elections so that the treaty doesn’t become attached to one political party.

“Today, the ideological battle is on for the soul of American foreign policy,” Kerry said. “It is not between red and blue or coasts and the heartland. It is about whether America will continue to lead the world or be left behind, less prosperous in our own land and less secure abroad.”

Economics freshman Maristil Yap said she doesn’t support the United States signing on to the Law of Sea treaty. Yap said the treaty includes an international tax, which would be an added expenditure for the American tax payers.

“Americans do not like taxes,” Yap said. “They already think they pay for enough. If this tax were to be implemented, the average American would be unwilling to pay it.”

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the School of Law sponsored Kerry’s lecture.

Kirston Fortune, assistant dean of the School of Law, said having political figures on UT’s campus creates important opportunities for students.

Kerry’s message may inspire students to become engaged in civic life and vote in the upcoming election, Fortune said.

“It is an important part of our educational mission to expose students to various opinions and views,” Fortune said. “Students should get as much information about current events in the political processes as they can so they can form educated opinions.”

Printed on Monday, November 5, 2012 as: Senator advocates treaty