August 28, 2015 / 4:25 AM / 3 years ago

Arms treaty conference fails to set reporting rules in Mexico

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Countries backing a major accord to regulate the international arms industry on Thursday failed to agree on a definitive format for reporting arms sales, kicking the issue down the road and disappointing advocates of arms control.

Officials from 121 governments have been meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun to agree details of how the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will oversee the multi-billion dollar industry.

But on the final day of the first conference, officials resolved only to work together over coming months on crafting a lasting template for reporting sales.

For the ATT to be effective, say arms control groups, there must be full disclosure of weapons sales, but the issue is contentious and officials had already suggested that reaching agreement might prove impossible at the inaugural conference.

“The aim is to achieve a reporting system which is the same for everyone,” said Jorge Lomonaco, Mexico’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, who oversaw the conference. “It still needs to be refined and work will continue on it.”

Time would tell whether an effective format for reporting arms sales would emerge, but for now it was a setback, said Anna Macdonald, director of lobby group Control Arms.

“Some governments may now choose to not make these reports public, which makes it a bit pointless,” she said.

The template process will be subject to review but there is no guarantee it will ultimately prove binding, she added.

Macdonald said resistance to full disclosure appeared to have been led by some European arms exporters, which was ironic as European Union rules already imposed significant transparency requirements on them.

Still, other agreements were reached during the four-day meeting, and on Wednesday the countries resolved that future decisions within the ATT would be made by majority vote, avoiding the risk of potential vetoes by individual nations.

About 130 countries have signed the ATT, including the United States, but it is not among the 72 to have ratified the treaty.

Editing by Dave Graham and Clarence Fernandez

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