Continuing Washington’s drift from multilateralism, US President Donald Trump has announced that he was withdrawing the country from the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
At a meeting of the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis on Friday, he dramatically pulled out a letter for ending US participation in the treaty and signed it on stage to a standing ovation by the audience of weapons control opponents.
He called the ATT “badly conceived” and said: “The UN will get notice that we are formally rejecting this treaty.”
The US signed the treaty in 2013 but has not ratified it. Trump said that he was withdrawing it also from the Senate.
Advancing his America First policy, he has already withdrawn the US from UNESCO, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INFT), which bans nuclear-tipped missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km, and the agreement on denuclearising Iran that was made by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and Tehran.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, the ATT covers all types of weapons and seeks to stop them from reaching regimes abusing human rights or parties in civil wars, armed and terrorist groups.
Democrats denounced Trump’s decision.
“Pulling the US out of yet another arms control treaty undermines our national security and makes for a more dangerous world,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted.
By pulling out of the ATT, the US joins India, which has not signed the treaty.
One of the arguments made by India in 2013 against the treaty was that New Delhi had “strong and effective national export controls” on military hardware to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
A senior US administration official echoed it on Friday during a briefing on Trump’s decision saying: “The US already has significant controls in place to regulate our conventional arms transfers.”
The official pointed out that neither have Russia and China, which are major arms exporters, signed it.
The official said that while the US has rules in place to govern its arms transactions, those countries did not have any and would not be governed by the treaty either.
Only 130 of the 193 members of the UN have signed the treaty, and of them only 101 ratified it putting it just over the threshold of 100 to come into effect.
The official said the British government is being sued by an NGO, Campaign Against Arms Trade citing the treaty to stops arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a Washington ally, and implied that the US could face similar challenges if it continued to be a part of the ATT.
Trump chose the NRA, a conservative bastion of his support, to make the announcement playing on the group’s fears of weapons controls. The politically powerful NRA takes an absolutist stand on the US Constitution’s Second Amendment that guarantees Americans the right to bear arms and its opposition to restrictions on weapons, including machine guns and automatic rifles, is blamed for gun violence, particularly mass shootings, in the nation.
Even though the ATT does not deal with domestic gun sales, Trump told the NRA: “We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedoms.”
“Leaving the Arms Trade Treaty that limits global trafficking in lethal weapons to get applause from the @NRA is reckless and shameful”, Pelosi tweeted.