Friday, April 28, 2017

Phew, Canada is joining the Arms Treaty

Thank. God. Canada has finally decided to forgo their aggressive nature and pass the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty through their legislature. This could not come at a better time, especially with their rampant global arms trade abuses. It is definitely about time, considering that the United States was a pioneer of this treaty and has long since ratified the treaty.


The United States still has yet to ratify the treaty. Our Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that there are other things more pressing than pursuing international peace. This is somewhat understandable, though, because the United States got stuck with a treaty that does not at all line up with its own desires.

I seriously need to stop with the sarcasm.

The United States was actually a primary negotiator of the treaty and made some pretty hefty demands that made their way into the treaty as a final agreement. The treaty is littered American economic interest on almost every page. The wording operates so that the treaty does not infringe upon the legitimate national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. The partisanship is baffling. Additionally, notable absences including Russia and China spell failure for the treaty, as these two nations are two of the top arms exporters in the world (behind the United States, of course). The language of the treaty essentially allows for arms trades to operate beyond the scope of the treaty so long as the trade is in the interest of self-defense. For instance, if American arms traders could justify that selling to the Syrian government would be for their self-defense, the trade would be legal within the treaty.

The other issue is that the treaty was so watered down when it finally got to the United Nations that it was effectively neutered of any potential meaningful policy change. Aside from the abstention of multiple key players in the international arms market, the treaty does little to incentivize changing the character of the international arms trade. The language does not go far enough, and the crosshairs of the treaty are aimed at the wrong targets.

Notable loopholes exist within the treaty. For example, shotguns marketed for hunting are not included in the reporting requirements for the treaty, but those same shotguns are used by police and military, who are the purported targets of the treaty. The treaty is not comprehensive enough to actually make a dent in the ethical violations in the arms treaty.

So, while Canada joining the treaty is just wonderful (hopefully all those Canadian atrocities finally come to an end), their (like everyone else's) adoption of the treaty is almost meaningless. The international arms trade is usually unafraid to operate outside of the law, so this vague and lame piece of international law will likely do nothing to deter those actors.

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