Is it possible to control international arms trading?

6 September, 2007

Possible? Yes. Feasible? Only if we try.

Governments are in charge of controlling the international arms trade, whilst benefiting from its occurrence. To get an idea of its importance to the West’s economies, try this: from 1998 to 2001, the USA, the UK, and France earned more income from arms sales to developing countries than they gave in aid.

Who are the world’s major arms traders? The names are surprisingly familiar: General Electric, Boeing, Rolls Royce, Saab and EADS (from Airbus fame), to name a few.

These corporations not only produce heavy weaponry, but also automobiles, civil airplanes, space crafts, as well as owning television networks. Respectable, employment generating, desirable industries.

Also the types of industries with a strong leverage on governments when it comes to industrial policy. We should be wary of their influence when it comes to shaping policies on control of international arms trade.

The defense industry is a highly institutionalised group that would long have been called a cartel if it wasn’t for its strong links with the various ministries of trade, defense or industry. Those links are also what makes the industry such an opaque group, often referred to, after president Eisenhower (1953-1961), as the military industrial complex.

Our only hope in refraining them is increasing the pressure we put on our governments. Yes, the same governments that are benefiting from the trade; there are no others to turn to.

Please take a moment and lend your support to the Control Arms initiative ( As individuals, we are not able to stand up against this injustice. Together, we might just succeed.


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