Global arms trade pact to take force; U.S. Senate has not ratified

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A global arms trade treaty that aims to regulate the $85 billion industry and keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers and criminals will enter into force on Wednesday, though the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified it.

Supporters of the treaty welcomed the development, saying it was long overdue. They say the treaty, which the United States signed in 2013, would require arms exporters around the world to meet tough export criteria comparable to those in place in the United States and other Western democracies.

“Campaigners have been pushing for this moment for a decade,” said Anna Macdonald, director of the lobby group Control Arms, adding that it would be the “dawn of a new era.”

“If robustly implemented, this treaty has the potential to save many lives and offer much-needed protection to vulnerable civilians around the world,” she said. “It is now, finally, against international law to put weapons into the hands of human rights abusers and dictators.”

Of the 130 signatories of the treaty, 60 have ratified it. A total of 50 ratifications were necessary for the pact’s entry into force.

The United States, the world’s top arms exporter, signed the Arms Trade Treaty in September 2013 but the Senate has not ratified it. The National Rifle Association, a powerful U.S. gun lobby, opposes ratification, even though the treaty covers only weapons exports, not domestic gun sales.

Major weapons producers like Russia, China, India and Pakistan have not signed the treaty. Top arms exporters that have signed and ratified it include Britain, France and Germany.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Tuesday it was “critical that we continue to promote universal participation in the (treaty), by encouraging all states, particularly major arms exporters and importers, to join.

“I call on those states who have not yet done so, to accede to it without delay,” he added.

The treaty aims to set standards for cross-border transfers of conventional weapons ranging from small firearms to tanks and attack helicopters. It would create binding requirements for states to review cross-border contracts to ensure weapons will not be used in human rights abuses, terrorism, violations of humanitarian law or organized crime.

Supporters say the treaty’s implementation will make it much more difficult for arms dealers to ship deadly weapons to parties to conflicts in places like Syria, South Sudan and other hot spots in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by David Gregorio