In a speech before the National Rifle Association, President Donald Trump declared today that the United States would be "revoking the effect" of the U.S. signature of the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and taking the treaty back from the Senate. The treaty which entered into force in December 2014, is the first global treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade. The Obama administration signed the treaty in 2014, and the treaty is before the Senate for consideration for ratification.
Key security experts and former officials sharply criticized the move as misguided, counterproductive, and dangerous.
The ATT establishes common international standards that must be met before states authorize transfers of conventional weapons or export ammunition and weapons parts and components. It aims to reduce the illicit arms trade, reduce human suffering caused by illegal and irresponsible arms transfers, improve regional security and stability, and promote accountability and transparency by state-parties concerning transfers of conventional arms.
The treaty came into force on December 24, 2014 and has a total of 101 states-parties and 135 signatory states.
"The President's action today is yet another mistaken step that threatens to make the world less safe, rather than more secure. The ATT, if ratified by the U.S. Senate, would not require the United States to change anything in its law or procedures. It is sad, but to be expected, that this president opposes efforts to require other countries to meet the high standards of U.S. military export decisions," said Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation and lead U.S. negotiator on the Arms Trade Treaty.
"In rejecting the Arms Trade Treaty, Donald Trump joins the ranks of the leaders of the only three states—Iran, Syria and North Korea—who voted to oppose the adoption of this common-sense treaty," said Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation and lead U.S. negotiator on the Arms Trade Treaty.
“President Trump’s decision to unsign the ATT is misguided and not consistent with U.S. national security or economic interests. The ATT was intended prevent the irresponsible and illegal transfer of conventional arms to commit violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. By turning its back on multilateral diplomacy yet again, the United States is disregarding global norms and allowing nefarious actors to trade weapons with impunity. Walking away from a treaty that includes nearly all of the United States' closest allies and partners, the United States is instead choosing to be in the company of governments that routinely flout responsible transfer controls," said Rachel Stohl, managing director, Stimson Center, and former consultant to the UN ATT negotiations.
"In contrast to the Trump administration’s false claims about the Arms Trade Treaty, the treaty text explicitly says that each country is responsible for implementing the treaty in accordance with its own constitutional law. The United States already has the most detailed legislation that govern the substance and process of U.S. arms sales. The ATT simply requires the rest of the world to raise their process and standard to something that approaches the United States' level,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association.