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United States Practice
ARTHUR W. ROVINE
Office of the Legal Adviser
Department of State
237 • A174
DEPARTMENT OF STATE PUBLICATION 8809
Released July 1975
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402 - Price $10.25
Stock Number 044-000-01566
The appearance a year ago of the first annual Digest of United States Practice in International Law, a volume covering U.S. practice for the year 1973, has been welcomed by the international legal community as a significant addition to the materials now available on contemporary developments in international law. The Department of State is encouraged by this reception, and is hopeful that the maintenance of the series will prove to be of continuing benefit.
The 1974 Digest follows essentially the same structure and format as the 1973 volume, although new sections have been added on population in Chapter 10, and military assistance and sales in Chapter 14.
1974 was an important year from the perspective of U.S. practice in international law, and particularly international economic law. The Trade Act of 1974, in the words of President Ford, “is the most significant trade legislation passed by the Congress since the beginning of trade agreement programs some four decades ago.” Basic elements of the Act include authority to negotiate further reductions and elimination of trade barriers, to work for the reform of GATT, and authorization for a generalized system of preferences under which eligible developing countries would receive duty-free treatment on certain products for a term of 10 years.
Of particular importance was the successful negotiation in 1974 by the United States and the other major industrialized oil-consuming countries of the Agreement on an International Energy Program. The Agreement, signed by 16 countries on November 18, 1974, contains provisions on developing emergency self-sufficiency in oil supplies, measures to restrain demand and to allocate available oil during shortages, the establishment of an information system on the international oil market, a framework of consultation with oil companies, long-term cooperation on energy, and relations with producer countries and other consumer countries. The Agreement also established a new international organization—the International Energy Agency (IEA)—to further continued cooperation in the energy sphere among the participating nations.
The international community turned its attention in 1974 to problems of food production and distribution and convened a World Food Conference at Rome to consider what steps should be taken to deal adequately with them. Detailed consideration began on the possibility of a world grain reserves agreement, on new international arrangements for food aid, and on the possible need for substantive revisions of the Charter of the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The World Population Conference at Bucharest made notable recommendations on population problems.
The establishment in 1974 of several bilateral joint cooperation commissions between the United States and other countries has also been significant, particularly with respect to cooperative economic relations.
In an area of rapidly developing economic significance, the law of the sea, further efforts were made in 1974 at Caracas at the Third United Nations Conference to develop a Convention on the Law of the Sea. While a comprehensive treaty was not agreed upon, some of the basic elements of a final structure appear to be present, including a 12-mile territorial sea and a 200-mile economic zone. However, this prospect is subject to resolution of other issues, including unimpeded transit of straits used for international navigation.
Substantial progress was also evident during 1974 in laying the framework for significant arms control agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union. At the Moscow summit meeting in July, the two Governments signed a Protocol to the 1972 ABM Treaty further limiting ABM deployments; a Treaty limiting underground weapons testing to a 150-kiloton yield threshold, and calling for the negotiation of a bilateral agreement limiting peaceful nuclear explosions; and a joint statement calling for bilateral discussions on the question of restraints on the military use of environmental modification techniques. At the Vladivostok summit in November, the two heads of state reached agreement on the general principles to guide U.S. and Soviet negotiators in the conclusion of an agreement on strategic offensive arms in 1975 to replace the 1972 SALT I Interim Agreement.
Less progress was made with respect to multilateral arms control measures, as important but as yet inconclusive discussions continued in the U.N. Committee of the Conference on Disarmament concerning limitations on chemical weapons, and in the Vienna talks on the mutual and balanced reduction of military forces in Central Europe. At the 29th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, a measure of agreement was achieved on the desirability of exploring various proposals for nuclear free zones, and of strengthening current restraints on the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In December, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, prohibiting the first use in war of chemical or biological weapons, and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention which prohibits the production, acquisition or retention of biological or toxic weapons.
The 29th Session of the General Assembly dealt with several issues of major legal significance. After some 50 years of intermittent negotiation, the world community adopted a definition of aggression designed to serve as a guide to the Security Council in considering questions involving armed conflict. Despite a Security Council decision against expelling South Africa from the United Nations, the General Assembly decided to reject the credentials of the South African delegation. Subsequently, the Assembly President ruled that the South African delegation had no right to participate in the Assembly or its committees during the 29th Session. The United States challenged the legality and wisdom of both these decisions.
The General Assembly also adopted in 1974 a Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States. The Charter was intended to set out guiding principles of international economic relations acceptable to both developing and developed countries. However, as adopted, the Charter diverged demonstrably from certain principles of customary international law and embraced several new principles reflecting not the international interest as a whole but the more radical ideas of certain developing countries. Efforts of the United States and other developed countries to amend the Charter or to continue negotiations were rejected, and the United States accordingly was compelled to vote against the Charter.
1974 was an important year in U.S. practice in the field of human rights. The United States continued to support more effective use of inquiry, debate, and impartial investigation, national and international, as well as good offices, joint efforts through the United Nations and judicial proceedings to secure greater protection of human rights.
Thus the United States maintained its condemnation of South Africa's disregard of its obligations in Namibia, and continued its arms embargo against South Africa. Also in the United Nations, the United States condemned terrorism, reprisals and religious intolerance and sought ways to end such practices. It cosponsored a resolution calling for practical steps toward the elimination of the widespread incidence of torture. There was continued U.S. support for use of the machinery established under ECOSOC Resolution 1503 for consideration by the U.N. Human Rights Commission of complaints of violations. In various forums, the United States expressed concern and pressed for further protection of human rights in Chile and Korea, and lent support to the right of Jews and others to emigrate from the Soviet Union.