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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Support for The Arms Trade Treaty

Fact Sheet
Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
May 26, 2010


Why is the United States now supporting the ATT negotiations?

  • Conventional arms transfers are a crucial national security concern for the United States, and we have always supported effective action based on the highest standards of responsibility to control the international transfer of arms.

  • The United States has in place an extensive and rigorous system of controls that most agree is the “gold standard” of export controls for arms transfers. We engage and assist other states both bilaterally and through multilateral organizations and regimes to raise their standards and to prohibit the transfer or transshipment of capabilities to rogue states, terrorist groups, and groups seeking to unsettle regions.

  • An Arms Trade Treaty initiative conducted on the basis of consensus presents us with the opportunity to promote the same high standards for the entire international community that the United States and other responsible arms exporters already have in place to ensure that weaponry is transferred for legitimate purposes.

  • We are pleased that the sponsors of the ATT initiative agreed that the 2012 Conference will take its decisions by consensus, which allowed the United States to agree to work hard for a strong international standard in this area by seizing the opportunity presented by the ATT Conference at the United Nations.

  • We will actively support the negotiations as long as the Conference takes its decisions by consensus to ensure that all countries can be held to standards that will actually improve the global situation by denying arms to those who would abuse them.

Why does the United States need consensus? Won't that result in a treaty with weak standards?

  • Consensus is needed to ensure the widest possible support for the treaty and to avoid loopholes in the treaty that can be exploited by those wishing to export arms irresponsibly. Consensus is needed to ensure that a treaty has high standards.

  • An ATT would touch on one of the most sensitive and important parts of the UN charter – the right of states to self-defense. The best way to reassure states that the ATT would not undermine their security is to have the negotiations take their decisions by consensus, and to have them participate in the negotiations.

Why is the United States supporting a negotiation that will undermine the Second Amendment?

  • That contention is absolutely wrong. The negotiations will cover international transfers of conventional weapons, not internal (domestic) transfers or possession.

  • The United States will oppose any effort to address internal transfers. We will also oppose any provisions that would conflict with the U.S. Constitution or domestic U.S. law. Our ability to oppose such things is another reason why a consensus approach is necessary.

What does the United States mean by a "strong and robust treaty"?

  • We want a treaty that will prevent, or at least significantly impede, illicit trade in conventional weapons by reinforcing national commitments and supplementing those obligations, thereby elevating the degree to which the worldwide trade in conventional arms is conducted in a lawful, transparent, and accountable manner.

  • The treaty should NOT lower current international standards and appear to convey legitimacy on transfers of concern to recipients of concern (e.g., state sponsors of terrorism or states under international sanctions). It also should NOT interfere with other efforts outside the ATT to curb irresponsible or destabilizing transfers.

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