The globalization of the arms industry--everything from manufacturing tank parts to the sale of guns and armored vehicles--is helping abusive governments get their hands on banned weapons and flout international arms control treaties, according to the Control Arms Campaign. U.S., European, and Canadian arms manufacturers circumvent many arms control regulations by subcontracting the manufacturing of weapons such as the Apache attack helicopter overseas to countries like China, Egypt, and Turkey. Though the practice is perfectly legal, the manufactured weapons have found their way to destinations such as Colombia and Sudan, where they are often used to kill or displace civilians, the campaign charges in a recent report titled "Arms Without Borders."
Both the United States and the European Union have policies against selling certain types of arms directly to China due to that country's human-rights record. However, some weapons manufacturers are allowed to subcontract labor to Chinese companies; China's new Z-10 attack helicopter could not operate without weapons and parts technology that comes from various U.S. and European firms. China has recently sold attack helicopters to the Sudanese government, which both the United States and the United Nations have accused of genocide.
"This report reveals a litany of loopholes and destroyed lives," says Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International, one of the member organizations of the Campaign. "Arms companies are global, yet arms regulations are not, and the result is the arming of abusive regimes. Europe and North America are fast becoming the IKEA of the arms industry, supplying parts for human-rights abusers to assemble at home, with the morals not included."
This trend in subcontracting the manufacture of weapons is fueled, in part, by a rise in military budgets across the globe. While military conflicts have been decreasing (a fact all too easily overlooked, given the dominance of the Iraq war in the U.S. and international media), military budgets have been trending upward and reached roughly $1 trillion in 2005, the highest figure in more than a decade. China, India, Israel, and Saudi Arabia were among the countries that increased their purchase of armaments. The United States government recently indicated that it, too, might permanently expand the size of its military. With an annual budget of around $400 billion, and 1. …