Magazine article National Defense

United States and Britain at Odds over Weapons Sales Regulations

Magazine article National Defense

United States and Britain at Odds over Weapons Sales Regulations

Article excerpt


LONDON -- The world's top two weapons exporters, the United States and the United Kingdom, remain at odds over an international arms trade treaty favored by the United Nations.

The United Nations is proposing new international regulations over the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. The United States opposes the treaty on the grounds that its own export controls are tougher than those suggested by the United Nations

The U.K. government, meanwhile, has endorsed the treaty as a necessary means to curtail terrorists' access to weapons, as well as arms sales that continue to fuel regional wars in developing nations.

Proponents of the treaty contend that current nation-unique regulations are outdated because they don't take into account the globalization of the weapons industry.

A "patchwork quilt" of national controls, which differ widely from one country to another, cannot effectively deal with non-state terrorist organizations that seek to acquire arms on the black market, said a panel of military contractors and arms trade experts based in the United Kingdom.

"A purely national regime doesn't prevent irresponsible or illegal arms transfers by others," said John Howe, vice president of Thales in the U.K. "The only way of preventing abuse is to have an international regime."

Moreover, variations between national export regulations are causing confusion in the defense industry, said Howe. "At present, there is great complexity arising in part from the fact that different states trading with each other have different rules."

John Duncan, U.K. ambassador for multilateral arms control and disarmament, said an international arms trade treaty would establish legally binding controls on the arms trade in line with an agreed set of high standards.

"It's an opportunity to put the international arms trade on a more secure and responsible footing, where we can all be more confident that legitimate needs are met and arms do not fall into the wrong hands," he said.

In October, the U.N. General Assembly discussed a draft resolution submitted by the United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Costa Pica, Finland, Japan and Kenya. Early next year, a group of government experts will convene to discuss the treaty's underpinning issues and propose the parameters for regulations that the U.N. will negotiate in 2009. …

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