US signs treaty regulating global arms trading
Treaty will not come into effect until 50 nations ratify it, and US Senate has doubts
The United States, the world's largest arms dealer, has joined more than 90 other nations in signing a treaty that regulates global arms trading - but there is strong resistance in the Senate, which must ratify it.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who signed the Arms Trade Treaty yesterday, said it was a "significant step" in keeping the world safe and preventing terrorists and others from obtaining conventional weapons.
The Obama administration's move is seen as critical to the treaty's success.
The US was the 91st country to sign, but the treaty will not take effect until 50 nations have ratified it. Only four had ratified the treaty as of yesterday.
Many of the world's other top arms exporters have yet to sign and opposition in the Senate means US ratification will be difficult.
"This is about reducing the risks of international transfers of conventional arms that will be used to carry out the world's worst crimes," Kerry said.
He said it would require other countries to put in place the same arms export restrictions that the United States already has in force.
"This is about keeping Americans safe and keeping America strong, and this is about promoting international peace and global security," he said.
Addressing US critics of the treaty, the former senator said fears that it would undermine Americans' constitutional right to keep and bear arms are not grounded in reality.
For one, the treaty does not regulate domestic weapons sales.
"This treaty will not diminish anyone's freedom," he said. "It recognises the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess and use arms for legitimate purposes."
The treaty will require countries that ratify it to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and components and to regulate arms brokers. It will not control the domestic use of weapons in any country.
It prohibits the transfer of conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, and if they could be used in attacks on civilians or civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals.
What impact the treaty will have in curbing the global arms trade — now estimated to be worth between US$60 billion and US$85 billion annually — remains to be seen. Much will depend on which countries ratify it, and how stringently it will be implemented once it comes into force.