UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK: US President Barack Obama’s administration signed a UN treaty Wednesday to track exports of firearms and other conventional weapons, offering a major boost to the pact despite opposition at home.
The United States is the world’s largest exporter of conventional arms, accounting for 30 percent of the $90 billion global industry. The landmark treaty aims to curb weapons shipments to extremists and conflict areas.
Secretary of State John Kerry, signing on behalf of the United States in an oversized book at the UN headquarters, called the treaty a “significant step” for global peace efforts.
“This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors,” Kerry said after signing the Arms Trade Treaty in front of UN officials.
“This treaty strengthens our security and builds global security without undermining the legitimate international trade in conventional arms,” he said.
Kerry devoted much of his remarks to assuaging concerns inside the United States, where the weapons industry holds significant political sway.
The Senate needs to ratify the treaty, which has quickly galvanized US conservatives who are deeply suspicious of both gun regulations and the United Nations.
“This treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom,” Kerry said.
“In fact, the treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess and use arms for legitimate purposes,” he said.
If the Senate refuses to ratify the treaty, the United States could face the same situation as under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in which it helped draft the pact but remained a conspicuous holdout.
The United States hesitated at finalizing the arms treaty as Obama faced re-election last year.
But the United States was part of efforts that sealed the treaty earlier this year; although critics say it watered it down to avoid any international enforcement.
Only three nations — Iran, North Korea and Syria — voted against the treaty at the UN General Assembly on April 2.
But 23 others abstain, including major players China, India and Russia.