An international treaty under consideration by the Senate would seriously undermine the economic clout the U.S. currently wields at the United Nations.
Approval of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a 25-year-old international treaty regulating use of the world’s oceans, is steaming ahead in the Senate, where committee hearings have been scheduled to begin on Sept. 27.
Among other provisions, UNCLOS would levy a tax on members’ undersea operations, requiring nations to pay up to 7 percent of their sea-mining revenues.
There are some 400 million barrels of oil and large untapped reserves of natural gas and crystallized methane in underwater areas claimed by the U.S., and the taxes levied by the U.N.’s International Seabed Authority (ISA) would soar into the billions of dollars, according to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.
That kind of cash flow would make the U.N. less dependent on member dues, and less vulnerable to countries that withhold payment to protest U.N. actions.
“This is just one more bad thing to come out of the U.N.,” Inhofe declared. “They are desperate for a way to collect global taxes so they don’t have to answer to us every time they do something that’s bad.”
The U.S. currently pays 22 percent of the U.N.’s budget, the largest portion paid by any country. America contributes more than $440 million in regular dues, plus $1.1 billion for U.N. peacekeeping efforts and $480 million to U.N.-affiliated agencies such as the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Therefore the U.N. is extremely vulnerable to U.S. threats to withhold payments, as it has done in the past.
The U.S. protested loudly when the U.N. passed General Assembly Resolution 3379 in 1975, which equated Zionism with racism. Under the Reagan administration, the U.S. began to withhold its U.N. dues as a form of pressure on the world body.
In June 2005, the U.S. House passed a bill that would slash American payments to the U.N. in half if the organization did not meet certain criteria. A parallel bill in the Senate has not yet come to a vote.
About 155 nations have signed UNCLOS to date, and the U.S. is the lone holdout among the world’s major powers.
Some see the treaty as a way to redistribute money to developing nations. But Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, cautions: “The rate at which taxes are levied could easily be increased. That is particularly true given the tyranny of the majority of members who are would-be beneficiaries of any tax-fed redistribution of wealth.”
Gaffney also warned that U.S. taxpayers could end up footing the bill when the U.S. Treasury gets charged for overdue assessments owed to the ISA by private American corporations.
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