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Negotiating the Law of the Sea

Negotiating the Law of the Sea

James K. Sebenius

ISBN 9780674606869

Publication date: 07/05/1984

The Law of the Sea (LOS) treaty resulted from some of the most complicated multilateral negotiations ever conducted. Difficult bargaining produced a remarkably sophisticated agreement on the financial aspects of deep ocean mining and on the financing of a new international mining entity. This book analyzes those negotiations along with the abrupt U.S. rejection of their results. Building from this episode, it derives important and subtle general rules and propositions for reaching superior, sustainable agreements in complex bargaining situations.

James Sebenius shows how agreements were possible among the parties because and not in spite of differences in their values, expectations, and attitudes toward time and risk. He shows how linking separately intractable issues can generate a zone of possible agreement. He analyzes the extensive role of a computer model in the LOS talks. Finally, he argues that in many negotiations neither the issues nor the parties are fixed and develops analytic techniques that predict how the addition or deletion of either issues or parties may affect the process of reaching agreement.


  • Contains new insights about U.S. policy toward the Law of the Sea. The author’s careful generalizations from the LOS case should be of great value to scholars and policymakers makers interested in negotiating international regimes.

    —Joseph Nye


  • James K. Sebenius is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 264 pages
  • 6 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press