Some 740,000 women and children die every year because of the illegal and poorly regulated arms trade, according to European Commission estimates. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) sets out to regulate the international trade in conventional weapons, but it can only enter into force if at least 50 countries ratify it. On Wednesday 5 February, MEPs will vote to authorise EU countries to ratify the treaty. We talked to David Martin, a British member of the S&D group who drafted the recommendation.
The global arms trade is a $70billon a year business and many European countries are major players. What would change with the ATT for Europe's arms industry? Do you believe that the treaty could cause a reduction in arms production?
It wouldn't necessarily result in the reduction of arms production, but it should stop arms getting into the hands of terrorists and should stop arms flooding into areas that are unstable. For example, the Central African Republic for the moment would not be a place where legitimately under the ATT you could sell weapons to. It should also restrain people from selling arms to areas where instability is perceived. So, perhaps two or three years ago, there may have been a ban on selling arms to Syria.
In the report you have mentioned that the treaty has some loopholes and a limited scope in terms of defining weapons and the list of criteria to authorise exports. Why despite this do you still recommend approval? Do you see any possibilities for future improvements?
There are weaknesses in the treaty, but it's nevertheless a major step forward. This is the first time that conventional weapons have been put under any sort of control at all.
One of the weaknesses is that ammunition does not appear to be included in the ATT. Another potential loophole is that the recording of weapons is still under the control of the member states. But perhaps the biggest loophole is not in the treaty itself, but in those who might not sign up for it. There are rumours that India, China and Russia, that are either major importers of exporters of arms, may not sign up for the treaty. We hope that all EU member states are signing up for this and that this will put pressure on other countries.