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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Elements of an Arms Trade Treaty

Fact Sheet
Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
June 4, 2010



The United States is prepared to work for strong international standards in the international arms trade, provided that the Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations operates under the rule of consensus decision-making. Consensus is needed 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 and to avoid loopholes in the Treaty that can be exploited by those wishing to export arms irresponsibly. The ATT should ensure that transfer controls of States Parties will be held to as high standard as that of the United States, and thus significantly reduce the risk the international trade in conventional arms will contribute to terrorism, illicit trafficking, or regional instability.


  • The ATT should include all advanced conventional weapons, including tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery systems, military aircraft, military helicopters, naval vessels, missiles, missile launchers, small arms and light weapons, and combat support equipment.
  • It should also include parts, components, and/or technology to manufacture, modify, or repair the covered items.
  • The ATT should be limited to international transfers. Imports, exports, transit, transshipment, or brokering of conventional arms, whether the transfers are state-to-state, state-to-private end-user, commercial sales, leases, or loans/gifts.


  • No new international organization should be created to enforce an ATT. Exports will ultimately be a national decision.
  • Controls: Controls must be established on a national basis in accordance with laws and regulations. Governments must be able to control the import, export, transshipment, and brokering of the regulated items, in tangible or intangible form.
  • Criteria. Possible criteria for States Parties to employ in assessing applications for international transfers could include the following:
    • Applicable international law, including the UN Charter, arms embargoes, and other sanctions.
    • Existing international obligations and commitments of both the potential exporting state and the potential recipient entity or government.
    • Consistency with applicable international agreements to which the U.S. is a party or has agreed to.
    • Appropriateness of the transfer in responding to or satisfying legitimate recipient security needs.
    • Impact on regional stability.
    • The potential for unauthorized third-party transfer, as well as in-country diversion to unauthorized uses.
    • The human rights, terrorism, and proliferation record of the recipient and the potential for misuse of the export in question.
    • The ability of the recipient to field, support, and employ the requested system in accordance with its intended end use.
    • The risk of adverse economic or political impacts within the recipient nation and the degree to which security needs can be addressed by other means.
  • Monitoring and Enforcement: The ATT should require signatory states to monitor and enforce the controls established, under their own domestic laws.


  • The Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld.
    • There will be no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution.
    • There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law.
  • The U.S. will oppose provisions inconsistent with existing U.S. law or that would unduly interfere with our ability to import, export, or transfer arms in support of our national security and foreign policy interests.
  • The international arms trade is a legitimate commercial activity, and otherwise lawful commercial trade in arms must not be unduly hindered.
  • There will be no requirement for reporting on or marking and tracing of ammunition or explosives.
  • There will be no lowering of current international standards.
  • Existing nonproliferation and export control regimes must not be undermined.
  • The ATT negotiations must have consensus decision making to allow us to protect U.S. equities.
  • There will be no mandate for an international body to enforce an ATT.

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