US Secretary of State John Kerry will sign the first global treaty to regulate the $80 billion annual trade in conventional arms, a US official said Tuesday.
Kerry on Wednesday is to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, in a bid to stem the flow of weapons used in brutal uprisings and genocide.
“Following congressional notifications today, tomorrow Secretary Kerry will sign the treaty on behalf of President (Barack) Obama and the United States of America,” a senior State Department official said.
The agreement was adopted earlier this year by the United Nations to regulate trade in tanks, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, missiles as well as small arms.
The treaty, which has been years in the making, was only adopted after tough negotiations at the United Nations. Talks had deadlocked last year after the United States asked for more time to work on the draft text.
“The treaty builds on decades of cooperative efforts to stem the international, illegal, and illicit trade in conventional weapons that benefits terrorists and rogue agents,” the State Department official said.
It “will help reduce the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes.”
Kerry praised the adoption of the treaty, saying it was “strong, effective and implementable” and insisted it would not infringe on the US Constitution and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The pact “can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade,” he added in his statement in April.
It is the first major arms accord since the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and covers all conventional weapons.
It has no automatic enforcement. However, it seeks to force the weapons industry within accepted boundaries.
Though the United States — which is the world’s biggest arms producer — has endorsed the treaty, the US Congress must still ratify it.
The powerful arms lobby in the United States has already voiced objections, fearful that it could infringe on individual gun rights within US borders.
“The treaty recognizes and protects the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legitimate purposes,” the State Department official insisted.
And the official added that the treaty “merely helps other countries create and enforce the kind of strict national export controls the United States has had in place for decades, which haven’t diminished one iota the ability of Americans to enjoy their rights under our constitution.”
Kerry also stressed in April that the pact only referred to “international trade, and reaffirms the sovereign right of any state to regulate arms within its territory.”
The United States is meanwhile embroiled in a heated domestic gun control debate, following a series of high-profile shootings.