May 18, 2023

Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law Blog

Indo Pacific Promulgations and Importance of Dipomancy - Anthony Ross

Indo Pacific PromulgationsandThe Importance of Diplomacy


Anthony J. Ross | Spring 2023

Thesis statement and introductory information


My proposed topic is one of interconnected national security, global security, long-term viability of fisheries, and associated initiatives of economics, commerce, and diplomacy.

With all due respect to current initiatives and administrative involvement, I have chosen to devote a portion of my time reviewing and reflecting upon the path we are following.

This topic has been one of significant interest to me for quite some time now. First, due to the fact we must prioritize sustainable global fisheries. Secondly to ensure stable commerce. Thirdly, to foster international relations from a diplomatic standpoint. Finally, to protect and serve our citizens as well as citizens of allied countries against global security concerns.


“Current and future presidential administrations should prioritize diplomacy when handling international relations associated with agreements and negotiations set forth as reflected through the World Trade Organization because the normalcy of sovereign rights is turning into sovereign fights and escalated global tension.





The Indo-Pacific Region offers a host of opportunities and an abundance of natural resources. Its vast resources include a commercial fishing industry which is a major contender of imports and exports and focal point within the World Trade Organization. The sovereignty and sustainability of the region’s nations depends largely on the wealth of the natural resources that accompany the region. The concepts of sovereignty are always relevant, but how far must the envelope be pushed in efforts to retain sovereign rights and how far must one push beyond what is morally and ethically acceptable?

The fisheries of the Indo-Pacific Region, however, are highly susceptible to illegal, unreported, and unregulated IUU fishing. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN Member States including Thailand, have voiced their opinion, and taken a stand to combat IUU fishing. Thailand has developed a traceability system to prevent illegal aquatic animals and illegal fishery products from Thai fishing vessels as well as imported products from foreign countries into the Thai production lines. The electronic traceability system has been completely developed in compliance with the Port State Measures (PSM) to prevent the importation of aquatic animals derived from IUU fishing into Thailand.1

The ASEAN Member States have received major investments from the United States which support matters pertaining to economic and resource sustainability. Under the current Biden-Harris Administration, three major policy initiatives have surfaced to give attention to national security, global security, the long-term viability of fisheries, and associated initiatives of economics, commerce, and diplomacy across the Indo Pacific Region. The policy initiatives are as follows: Indo Pacific Strategy, National Security Strategy, and the Pacific Partnership Strategy.

The Indo Pacific Strategy in Part 3: Drive Indo-Pacific Prosperity, states: “Two-way trade between the United States and the region totaled $1.75 trillion in 2020, and it supports more than five million Indo-Pacific jobs.”2 “Foreign direct investment from the United States totaled more than $969 billion in 2020 and has nearly doubled in the last decade.”3 “The United States remains the number-one investment partner in ASEAN member countries—investing more than Southeast Asia’s next three investment partners combined.”4

It is clear the United States has provided significant monetary contributions to the Indo-Pacific Region and ASEAN member states. However, is this a mere drop in the bucket and a commerce retention plan to exploit the Pacific Island Nation States for monetary gain and control of the vast resources? Or do we believe in and stand true to our diplomatic duties to foster international relations and provide aid in times of uncertainty?







Within the Biden-Harris National Security Strategy, we find the following:

Part IV. 37. Free and Open Indo Pacific: The Indo-Pacific fuels much of the world’s economic growth and will be the epicenter of 21st-century geopolitics.”5 “As an Indo-Pacific power, the United States has a vital interest in realizing a region that is open, interconnected, prosperous, secure, and resilient.”6 “The United States will work with other regional states to keep the Indo-Pacific open and accessible and ensure that nations are free to make their own choices, consistent with obligations under international law.”7 Furthermore, the National Security Strategy initiative provides: Part IV.45. Protect Sea, Air, and Space: “We will stand up for freedom of navigation and overflight, support environmental protection, and oppose destructive distant water fishing practices by upholding international laws and norms, including the customary international law rules in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”8 “We will expand our regional diplomatic, development, and economic engagement, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.”9 “We have entered a consequential new period of American foreign policy that will demand more of the United States in the Indo-Pacific than has been asked of us since the Second World War.”10


The Pacific Partnership Strategy lays out some additional fisheries goals including: Conclude negotiations on the South Pacific Tuna Treaty Annex amendments and associated Economic Assistance Agreement for 2023 and beyond to reflect the strength of our relationship with the Pacific and the respect we have for the Pacific Islands as stewards of this great ocean.”11

As noted, and laid forth within our country’s foreign policy initiatives, it is clear that the Indo-Pacific Region has become a hot topic. The region is increasingly becoming a concern of national security, and global security, and its vast natural resources need protection. The Pacific Partnership Strategy in conjunction with UNCLOS and the Tuna Treaty Annex will provide needed support to protect the priceless resources and fisheries across the Indo-Pacific region as we strive for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.








Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Information Operations to Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan Captain Tuan N. Pham has assembled a remarkable assessment of the U.S. Pacific Partnership Strategy (PPS) for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.In his assessment, under the heading of “What may be Lacking or Missing”:

Pacific cultures have long memories, and it will take time to win Pacific countries’ trust that the United States’ strategic intent in the region is genuinely to their benefit.12 The enduring challenge for future U.S. Administrations remains sustained and consistent implementation to prolong generated mutual trust and confidence.13 Special Presidential Envoy Ambassador Joseph Yun said it best when he stated that in the contest for the region’s hearts and minds, What the Pacific countries are looking for is a long-term, sustainable relationship and not just the United States paying attention now and then.14 In other words, the United States must put its money where its mouth is and close the say-do mismatch by not over-promising and under-delivering but giving real commitments in the coming years and decades.15 Fortunately, the United States also committed $810M to implement the PPS.16(C. T. Pham)

The concepts and policies which support a Free and Open Indo-Pacific are backed by joint military operations. On Tuesday, February 28th, 2023, a ceremony was held to mark “the 42nd anniversary of Exercise Cobra Gold, the largest joint exercise in mainland Asia that demonstrates a long-standing collaboration of the United States and Thailand’s commitment to address future challenges, ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations can prosper.17 Exercise Cobra Gold is one of many theater security cooperation exercises in the Indo-Pacific and reflects the U.S. commitment to allies and partners, providing enhanced regional interoperability. My hope is that cooperation amongst allied nations through joint military operations will provide a sense of security across marine territories and commercial fishing zones to serve as a strong arm against IUU fishing, which is essential for the long-term viability of the region’s fisheries.


As proclaimed by President Joe Biden:


The American military is the strongest fighting force the world has ever known.18 America will not hesitate to use force when necessary to defend our national interests.19 But we will do so as the last resort and only when the objectives and mission are clear and achievable, consistent with our values and laws, alongside non-military tools, and the mission is undertaken with the informed consent of the American people.20 Our starting premise is that a powerful U.S. military helps advance and safeguard vital U.S. national interests by backstopping diplomacy, confronting aggression, deterring conflict, projecting strength, and protecting the American people and their economic interests.21(President J. Biden)


Captain Pham and Ambassador Yun make fine and valid points. What we need to do is nothing more than a true display of integrity and diplomacy. The simple act of distributing money and showing up as a means to satisfy concerns is not enough to truly satisfy the needs and expectations of the States and Nations with which we have entered agreements. I believe that President Biden’s remarks of using military force to “backstop our diplomacy” is concerning. We must conduct true diplomacy.


One piece of legislation I find to be helpful here to ensure compliance specifically with duties toward fisheries should current or future administrations fail to uphold a true face of integrity and diplomacy is:

United States Code. Title 22. Foreign Relations and Intercourse. Chapter 25. Protection of Vessels on the High Seas and in Territorial Waters of Foreign Countries. § 1978: Restriction on importation of fishery or wildlife products from countries which violate international fishery or endangered or threatened species programs. Under § 1978(a)(1) Certification to President. “When the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State, determines that nationals of a foreign country, directly or indirectly, are conducting fishing operations in a manner or under circumstances which diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program, the Secretary of Commerce shall certify such fact to the President.”22

Furthermore, and perhaps a saving grace here, Sec. 1978(a)(3)(A) states: “In administering this subsection, the Secretary of Commerce, or the Secretary of the Interior, as appropriate, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall: (A) periodically monitor the activities of foreign nationals that may affect the international programs referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2).”23 My hope is that we visit these nations to conduct diplomatic meetings, hold educational briefings, and provide capacity-building opportunities. To teach, guide and foster relations in efforts to promote ecosystem development and instill conservation practices for the long-term viability and sustainability of the region’s fisheries.

In addition and as applicable to international relations and trade agreements, Sec.1978(a)(5) states that “upon receipt of any certification made under paragraph (1) or (2), the President may direct the Secretary of the Treasury to prohibit the bringing or the importation into the United States of any products from the offending country for any duration as the President determines appropriate and to the extent that such prohibition is sanctioned by the World Trade Organization (as defined in section 3501(8) of Title 19) or the multilateral trade agreements (as defined in section 3501(4) of Title 19).”24

Economic interest aside, we must promote and protect sovereign rights. We must conduct ourselves in a manner that displays morals, ethics and upholds true diplomacy. I would like to invest my personal peace of mind and beliefs that we the people will hold true to the very establishment we have created. We have duties and responsibilities as Americans, and we should be focusing on what matters most. Reserving peace of mind within adopted legislation should provide just representation should we need to implement applicable procedures as we often do to retain a stable economical status.







This topic has organically become a personal matter for me. My current place of residence for the past six years is near a Naval base in Corpus Christi, Texas. Over the course of these past several years many of my neighbors, some of whom were a regular part of my life, and some of whom have become lifelong friends, were U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots here to complete a portion of their flight school training. Many of these young men and women are likely to be stationed in Japan and San Diego, California and will be a part of the joint exercises and missions associated with national security and global security priorities for the Indo-Pacific Region.

Many of the friendships were beyond what is to be considered a friendly neighbor. I hosted community cookouts and barbeques for the pilots and took several of them fishing. A dozen or more of the pilots accompanied me on my bi-annual ecosystem rehabilitation project where we monitor and address water quality concerns here on the saltwater estuary and bay near the Naval base. As most flight school pilots are stationed here between 4 to 8 months, perhaps a year pending progression of installments and demand per base associated with needs of numbers of pilots, I have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending quite a few of these remarkable young men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line.

These events and experiences are contributing factors as to why the Indo-Pacific Promulgations have organically become a personal matter, because I must ensure we protect all of which matters most for the sake of our nation’s future.

In sum, we are in what I believe to be a pivotal place in the very security of mankind. From my perspective it appears as though the condition and circumstances surrounding the Indo-Pacific fisheries has shown to be the friction that could spark the next world war. If we do not hold true to our word and conduct ourselves in true diplomacy, we very well could be the instrument that thrusts tensions beyond a reclaimable position. This is not a matter to which we can turn a blind eye. We must conduct true diplomacy in order to protect international fisheries.


 1}Thailand, World Trade Organization, Trade Policy Review, WT/TPR/G/400, G-3§39(4), 2020, Ban/Prohibition, Conformity Assessment Procedures, fisheries. 2} Indo Pacific Strategy, Biden Harris, Part 3, Drive Indo-Pacific Prosperity at 11. 3} Id at 11. 4} Id at 11


 5,6,7} National Security Strategy, Part IV, Our Strategy by Region, Promote a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Biden Harris at 37. 9-10} Id at 38. 8} National Security Strategy, Part IV, Protect Sea, Air and Space at 45. 11} Pacific Partnership Strategy, Our Approach, Strong U.S. - Pacific Islands Partnership, Fulfill and Increase U.S. Commitments to the Pacific, Biden-Harris at 8.


 12-16} Center for International Maritime Security, Assessing the U.S. Pacific Partnership Strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, Captain Tuan N. Pham. 17} U.S. Navy, Pacific Fleet Commander, Operation Cobra Gold. 18-21} National Security Strategy, Part II, Investing in our Strength, Modernizing and Strengthening our Military, Biden-Harris at 20.


 22-24} U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel, Title 22. Chapter 25. U.S.C. 1978