Summary of the Senate Resolution of Ratification to the Chemical Weapons Convention

Arms Control Today, April 1997 | Go to article overview

Summary of the Senate Resolution of Ratification to the Chemical Weapons Convention


On April 24, the Senate approved a resolution of advice and consent to ratification (Senate Executive Resolution 75) of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) by a vote of 74-26. The resolution contained 28 "conditions" for Senate approval of the treaty, agreed upon by CWC supporters and opponents, who also agreed to eliminate five "killer"conditions that would have prevented the president from formally ratifying the convention. Several presidential certifications were required by the resolution and were made (in an April 25 message to Congress) before the U.S. instrument of ratification was deposited with the UN secretary-general. The text of these conditions, which is almost as long as the treaty itself, is summarized below with explanatory comments in italics.

On April 25, President Bill Clinton informed the secretary-general that the United States would become an original party to the convention by ratifying the treaty before its April 29 entry-into-force deadline (180 days after the 65th signatory deposited its instrument of ratification).

With these conditions, the Senate sought to reassert its constitutional role in the treaty-making process, influence the interpretation of various treaty provisions and provide advice on various policy issues. Numerous requirements were placed on the executive branch, including certifications to be made prior to the deposit of the U.S. instrument of ratification and periodically thereafter.

Condition 1: The Senate reserves the right to include reservations in its advice and consent to ratification, notwithstanding the explicit ban in Article XXII on reservations to the convention. Although this right was not exercised in the resolution of ratification, the Senate restates its constitutional right to do so in the future when considering amendments to the convention.

Condition 2: The executive branch is prohibited from providing any payment or assistance (including the transfer of in-kind items) to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) without formal authorization and appropriation by Congress. This condition also mandates statutory authorization and appropriation for potential expenses such as the cost of challenge inspections should the treaty's Executive Council assess such a cost.

Despite this condition, under the convention,failure of the United States to meet its financial obligations would lead to the revocation of its right to vote in the organization after its arrears exceed the amount due in the preceding two years (Article VIII, Paragraph 8). Condition 20 (see below) seeks to address this issue, but does not appear to resolve it.

Condition 3: Requires establishment by the OPCW of an independent, internal oversight office by the end of 1997 to investigate and report on the activities of the OPCW and perform annual audits of the handling of classified information and the laboratories designated in the convention's verification annex (Part II, Paragraph 55). This condition mandates cooperation by the OPCW with the oversight office, and an annual evaluation of OPCW compliance with oversight office recommendations. If, after April 28,1998, the president has not certified to Congress that such an office has been successfully created, 50 percent of the U.S. assessment for the OPCW budget will be withheld.

If this institutional change is not acceptable to the OPCW, the withheld U.S. assessment would eventually lead to the loss of the U.S. vote in the organization.

Condition 4: A cost-sharing arrangement with the OPCW will be required before the United States undertakes new research or development expenditures to improve CWC verification, and the president shall provide Congress with an annual report on cost sharing.

This reflects Senate concerns that the United States might have to assume the bulk of the cost for improving the verification system, but does not affect unilateral U. …

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