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USA to opt out of ATT

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    31st May, 2019

Continuing US’s drift from multilateralism, President Donald Trump has announced that the US will withdraw from the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).


Continuing US’s drift from multilateralism, President Donald Trump has announced that the US will withdraw from the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).


  • Advancing his America First policy, this the third major arms-related agreement from which the United States has withdrawn since he took office in January 2017.
  • The US has already withdrawn from UNESCO, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INFT), which bans nuclear-tipped missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km, and the agreement on denuclearising Iran that was made by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and Tehran.
  • The US is the world's top arms exporter. Its weapons sales are 58% higher than those of Russia, the world's second largest exporter.

Reasons for withdrawal from ATT

  • Affects US’s sovereignty: The US believes that the treaty amounts to international gun control, and is a threat to America's second amendment right to bear arms.
  • During the treaty negotiation, it was made clear that the pact would not threaten the right to bear arms afforded by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It has no authority over national gun control laws.
  • Nevertheless, U.S. gun-rights organizations, led by the NRA, have alleged that the treaty would impose limits on U.S. domestic gun sales.
  • Important players are non-signatories: The US alleges that the treaty fails to truly address the problem of irresponsible arms transfers because other top arms exporters - including Russia and China - have not signed up to it. India too is not a signatory.
  • Continued contentious arm sales: The US also claims that some groups try to use the treaty to overturn "sovereign national decisions" on arms sales, specifically pointing to attempts to block the UK's sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
  • The sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by western countries has been highly contentious because of the use of those weapons in air strikes in Yemen that have killed and injured thousands of civilians.

Arms Trade Treaty

  • The treaty is the first global accord to regulate the sale of a broad array of conventional weapons between countries.
  • It was signed by 130 nations in 2013, and officially came into law the following year.
  • It requires states to monitor their arms exports, and to ensure their weapons sales do not break existing arms embargoes.
  • Nations also need to ensure the weapons they export do not end up being used for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorist acts. If they do find out the arms will be used for any of these, they need to stop the transfer.
  • The pact has been signed and ratified by 101 countries so far - including Germany, France and the UK. The US is among another 29 nations that signed the treaty but have not ratified it to make it law.

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