The Arms Trade Treaty, Day Three: Turning Up the Pressure on the U.S.

By Ted R. Bromund, Ph.D.

2013 Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations
The Arms Trade Treaty, Day Three: Turning Up the Pressure on the U.S.
The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation
The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation

Washington, DC –-(   As the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) conference moved through its third day, the isolation of the United States became ever clearer.

The U.S. position is that the current text of the treaty, negotiated last July, needs to be better drafted but should not be substantially changed. Yesterday (March 20th 2013), it became increasingly obvious that most nations disagree.

Discussion yesterday centered on the core of the treaty: the items it covers, the criteria it will apply to arms transfers, the way it will be implemented, and how it will come into force. A large number of nations argued that the current draft—which requires nations not to transfer arms “for the purpose” of facilitating genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity—is too weak. These nations want this “purpose” standard replaced with a “knowledge-based” standard, i.e., if you have knowledge (or should have had knowledge) that your arms will be used for this purpose, you should not export them.

This sounds reasonable, but it amounts to a standard that will be used to second-guess every U.S. export that someone believes has gone wrong on the grounds that the U.S. should have known better. But the U.S. has a very limited ability to foresee the future: It did not expect the genocide in Rwanda or the Arab Spring, for example.

In practice, therefore, a knowledge-based standard would endanger U.S. defense exports to all but the very purest nations, which is exactly what the holier-than-thou brigade (supplemented by covetous European defense firms) wants to accomplish. It will also lead to U.N. investigations of U.S. defense sales and demands for documents from and testimony by U.S. officials in order to establish how much “knowledge” they had or should have had.

The other demands brought forward yesterday were, if anything, worse.
France spoke for several other nations demanding the inclusion of technology for the manufacturing of arms within the scope of the treaty, an impractical idea that would require the U.S. to control virtually every industrial process.

Many nations demanded that countries not only submit reports on their arms sales to a new international secretariat but that these reports be publicly available, an idea that—if it includes individual firearms owners—raises important privacy questions. Other nations want the power to amend the treaty by majority rule, which would raise serious sovereignty concerns for the U.S.

But in a way, the most damaging intervention came from the combination of Liberia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Russia. Liberia criticized every mention of national laws, every “where appropriate,” and every “where feasible” in the current treaty draft as “clawback clauses” that collectively weakened it. In reality, these clauses are there in large part to accommodate the U.S., its federal system, and the Second Amendment.

Trinidad and Tobago (speaking for the Caribbean Community) made the closely related point that implementation of the treaty at a national level only increases the importance of enforcing commonly agreed international standards. For its part, Russia demanded that the treaty place as many controls on the import of firearms as it does on exports.

None of this will necessarily find its way into the treaty now. But it points to an agenda for treaty amendments and for future pressure on the U.S., all of which will center on the argument that the treaty’s common standards should override the room the existing draft makes for the U.S. system and require tighter controls on imported firearms.

Finally, a number of autocracies, a few democracies, and even more treaty supporters on the outside want the treaty to be policed by an international court—either by the International Court of Justice, a group of so-called experts, or an entirely new organization. As Iran ridiculously asserted, the treaty favors arms exporters by allowing them to deny sales, while arms importers (which is what Iran would like to be) have no right of appeal against denied sales.

The Netherlands made the obvious, but often forgotten, objection that any mandatory arbitration system (indeed, any supranational oversight at all, I would add) would allow the dictatorships the right of appeal, which would amount to giving them the “right to buy” from unwilling sellers.

If anything is unacceptable, it’s that.

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About Ted R. Bromund, Ph.D.:
Ted R. Bromund studies and writes on British foreign and security policies and Anglo-American relations as senior research fellow in The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. He also explains why America must defend and advance its unique leadership role in the world. Visit: to read more.

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Why do we pay so much money to the UN so they can tell us about guns . Get out now and it will fall apart before our eyes !


Congress needs to cut some costs in its budget. DEFUND NATO! If they want our guns, pay for it on your own dime!


UN can do or say anything the want. We will put bullets in their asses and drive them into the ocean to swim to any other country they want to. They are no one else is going to take guns from us. We are not England, Canada, or Australia. We don’t roll over and give up our rights. Seems the world didn’t learn from our 1st revolution. Time for a 2nd.


they gave me john wayne when i was young i even went to The Nam for him now they want to take him away nothing ever changes Semper Fi my friends

Lochlyn Grendelsson

Do what ever you damned-well please.
If it violates the Constitution for these united States of America – it CANNOT be “law”.
Any attempt to foist this on me, my friends, my family, my State, my nation, will be met with deadly force.




Just as soon as you are disarmed you will be further stripped of all other rights that you presently enjoy, Forieners do not like the U.S. Constution or bill of rights as it is written. Because; it gives the citizens to much control; therefore the tryants have a difficult time controlling their citizens. We have been fighting against tyranny since the revoluutionary war.. Any Questions????


Time to get out of the USELESS NATIONS and run our nation the way it should be run.


Is this current Gun Ban in the U.S., a Government Conspiracy, as the US actually is the largest Exporter of Weapons supplying 30% of the entire world with Arms, but these anti-freedom politicians somehow want Americans to be unarmed now. So why would our government allow a massive supply of arms to other nations, and want to leave American’s populace defenseless?? Do they want the US to be Invaded and taken over? I smell conspiracy. What do you think? Here are the facts. Here’s SIPRI’s list of the top 5 arms exporters in 2008-2012 (share of international exports in parenthesis):… Read more »


Hmmmmm seems to me most of the Genocidal wars ive seen on tv the most prominant weapon visible was the AK-47. Correct me if im wrong but isnt that an old East Block weapon(? From Russia, Ygoslavia etc NOT THE USA!! These a- holes in the UN should practice as they preach ! The USA is by far innocent but their are players out their arming not so nice people then genocide happens and the UN sits on their stupid holier than though fat asses and dont do shit!! Look at Rwanda and how much killing was done their! Blood… Read more »

Jay W

We had better concede or fear the wrath of Trinidad and Tobago. Actually Feinstein, Durbin, Reid and Bloomberg scare me more than any outside menace.

Dave Stiebs

All the legislators are sending me answers to my emails stating that our second amendment will not be infringe upon. This sure sounds like they are trying to shred it to me. Liers!!!