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27 Apr, 2019 16:02

Trump’s arms treaty withdrawal divides US pundits, even though it doesn’t change anything

Trump’s arms treaty withdrawal divides US pundits, even though it doesn’t change anything

Continuing his tradition of shredding treaties and agreements signed by the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the UN Arms Trade Treaty. His supporters and opponents immediately weighed in.

Democrats savaged Trump for pandering to the gun lobby and making “a more dangerous world,” in the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

As the treaty sought to regulate international transfers of arms from tanks and warships to rifles and rockets, Democrats painted Trump’s withdrawal as a move that would make it easier for “human rights abusers and terrorists” to acquire weapons.

The treaty, however, has not yet been ratified, and the United States’ arms industry currently accounts for 36 percent of the world’s arms exports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). These exports netted American manufacturers a cool $192.3 billion last year, according to State Department figures.

Many of these weapons already end up in the hands of oppressive regimes and terrorist organizations, from the guided bombs dropped by Saudi Arabia on schoolchildren in Yemen, to the anti-tank TOW missiles that ended up in the hands of Al-Nusra jihadists in Syria.

Given that the ATT called for heightened scrutiny of arms sales in cases where they “could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, acts of terrorism, or transnational organized crime,” ratifying it would likely have put the spotlight on the end users of American weapons worldwide.

Also on rt.com Trump announces US withdrawing from UN Arms Trade Treaty

“The fact that Trump is canceling the signature is grandstanding,” investigative reporter Dave Lindorff told RT. “The United States doesn’t obey the world court, it doesn’t feel obliged to follow the Geneva Conventions. So tearing up this presidential signature… really doesn’t have any significant change to the US position.”

Ratifying the treaty would also allow rival arms exporters like Russia and China – neither of whom have signed the agreement – to cut into the US’ market, a point explicitly laid out in the White House’s argument against the treaty. Russia and China are the world’s second- and third-largest arms exporters behind the US.

Still, geopolitics took a back seat to partisan bickering, as is tradition in Washington. Opponents described the withdrawal as “blatant pandering” to the gun lobby, in the words of House Committee on Foreign Affairs chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York), who announced a hearing on the withdrawal on Friday.

In signing the withdrawal at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, Trump described the treaty as a threat to Americans’ Second Amendment freedoms. Although the Arms Control Association states the treaty “does not impact a state’s domestic gun control laws,” it is open to amendment in the future.

His supporters cheered the withdrawal, blasting the treaty’s supposed threat to their right “to keep and bear arms.”

With Washington consumed by partisan protestations, one foreign observer will be thrilled with Trump’s decision. Saudi Arabia is the main destination for American arms sales, and received some $3.5 billion worth of weaponry from the United States last year. All in all, the US has been the leading arms supplier to 20 of the world’s 40 largest arms importers, funneling its weapons to almost 100 nations.

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