The Arms Trade – Canada Is Profiting From World Misery
Presenter: Barrie Webster
Export trade is very important to Canada’s economy, the total value in 2015 being $525 billion. More than 3/4 of that export trade is with the USA. Export trade with Saudi Arabia has typically been of the order of $1.1 to $1.7 billion over the past six years (2010 to 2015) (Stats Canada). Imports are respectively $548 (total, 2/3 from US), and $2.1 billion (fluctuated from $1.6 to 2.7 billion over the past six years). Canada has had a negative balance of trade with Saudi Arabia in most years although it has varied widely.
The current light armoured vehicle (LAV) deal with Saudi Arabia is huge: worth $15 billion. The deal was negotiated by a crown corporation acting as broker, the Canadian Commercial Corp. They brought together General Dynamics, whose manufacturing plant is in London, ON, with Saudi Arabia. General Dynamics operations in Edmonton and London employ about 2100 people, and they recently posted a job opening for a business development officer to help expand opportunities in Saudi Arabia and selected countries in the Middle East specifically in view of the decline in defence spending in the west.
But the small arms and light weapons (SALW) trade is also covered by the Arms Trade Treaty.
small arms: revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, sub-machine guns and light machine guns.
light weapons: heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-tank missile and rocket systems; portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS); and mortarsof calibres of less than 100 mm.
To this list, the Survey has added single-rail-launched rockets and 120 mm mortars as long as they can be transported and operated as intended by a light vehicle.
Over the past 16 years, there has been a growing international consensus on the need to prevent and end the illicit trafficking in conventional weapons leading to many multilateral agreements to strengthen national controls. Weapons brokers are particularly problematic especially those acting illegally to circumvent the UN Security Council arms embargoes. Canada is a signatory to many, but has not yet introduced the required national brokering regulations. National brokering regulations in Article 8 of the ATT are viewed as being weak. Canada, however, has sought to remove any treaty obligation to implement brokering regulations.
Saudi Arabia’s defence spending
Saudi Arabia’s defence spending in 2014 was >10% of its GDP amounting to 4.5% of total military spending globally and is on the increase. Over the past 20 years, Saudi Arabia has bought 1,400 LAV-type vehicles with various weapons systems from General Dynamics.
Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and other States with abhorrent Human Rights Records – International Law & Saudi Arabia
More than 58% of Canadians believe that a country’s human rights record is more important than domestic jobs in decision making on arms sales.
Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Record
*152 executions in SA in 2015 (including 62 for minor drug-related charges) (Human Rights Watch)
*47 people beheaded on January 2, 2016; US$70,800 fine for Saudi man in 2015 for using social media “in order to practise homosexuality”
*Waleed Abu al-Khair sentenced to 15 years for criticizing the Saudi human rights record in the media
*119 air strikes in Yemen involved violations of human rights (UN study): Saudi Arabia responsible for about 70% of air sorties
*2800 civilian deaths in Yemen from Saudi-led bombing with military equipment bought from the US, UK, France, and other western allies
*Monitor, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, March/April 2016, pp. 16-17.
The global arms trade is profiting from both sides of conflicts generating refugees
Canada figures high on the list
What Could be Done Instead? Building a Civilian Economy – a US view
What could be done to bolster the civilian economy instead?
And there’s universally accessible public education, public health care, a more caring society …