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China to join UN arms trade treaty

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    1st Jul, 2020

China’s top legislative body has voted in favour of the country’s bid to join the UN-sponsored ATT, which seeks to regulate international trade in conventional military equipment.


China’s top legislative body has voted in favour of the country’s bid to join the UN-sponsored ATT, which seeks to regulate international trade in conventional military equipment.


  • The ATT was established in December 2014. Key principles of membership include-
    • self-defence rights
    • the intent to settle disputes through peaceful means
    • to refrain from issuing threats or use of force against the territorial integrity of any country
    • to respect human rights
  • The treaty requires member countries to keep records of international transfers of weapons and to prohibit cross-border shipments that could be used in human rights violations or attacks on civilians.
  • The treaty has a global membership of 106 countries, with Namibia the most recent to join in April.
  • Major military exporters including France, Germany, Israel, Spain, and the United Kingdom are members of the treaty.

Is US behind China’s decision?

  • It comes after US President Donald Trump announced plans last year to pull the United States out of the agreement -- which entered into force in 2014.
  • The US Senate never ratified the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty after former president Barack Obama endorsed it, and Trump has said he would revoke his predecessor's signature.
  • It is among a number of international agreements reached under the Obama administration that Trump has moved to pull out of.

China’s participation in conventional arms control

  • China actively implements the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) and participates in the work of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) for successive sessions.
  • China serves as the contracting party of the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its annexed Protocols and actively fulfills its obligations under the convention, submitting reports of the PoA, the UNROCA and the CCW in time.
  • Besides, China also participated in the negotiation processes of the ATT and participated in the follow-up conferences of the parties as an observer.

India’s take on the treaty

  • From the beginning of the ATT process, India has maintained that such a treaty should make a real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use especially by terrorists and other unauthorised and unlawful non-state actors.
  • India has also stressed consistently that the ATT should ensure a balance of obligations between exporting and importing states.
  • Further, India cannot accept that the Treaty be used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral force majeure measures against importing states parties without consequences.
  • India has been an active participant in the ATT negotiations. Underlying our participation in these extended negotiations was the principle that member states have a legitimate right to self-defence and our belief that there is no conflict between the pursuit of national security objectives and the aspiration that the Arms Trade Treaty be strong, balanced and effective.
  • This is consistent with the strong and effective national export controls that India already has in place with respect to export of defence items.

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