In a speech delivered to the National Rifle Association (‘America’s longest-standing civil rights organisation’) and published 26 April, President Trump said that the United States would not ratify the ‘misguided’ Arms Trade Treaty, telling the US Senate on 29 April: ‘I have concluded that it is not in the interest of the United States to become a party to the Arms Trade Treaty. I have, therefore, decided to withdraw the aforementioned treaty from the Senate and accordingly request that it be returned to me.’
An accompanying ‘fact sheet’ published by the White House explained: ‘President Trump has pledged to defend America’s sovereignty and always put America first and this decision follows through on that pledge. The President has repeatedly acted to protect and preserve our sovereignty, including by taking strong action to head off possible investigation of United States military and intelligence personnel by the International Criminal Court.
‘There is a track record of the ATT being used by groups to try and overturn sovereign national decisions on arms exports. For example, organizations sued the United Kingdom under the treaty to try and prevent a legal transfer of arms to Saudi Arabia.
‘By announcing the United States will not join the ATT, President Trump is ensuring this agreement will not become a platform to threaten Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
‘The United States export controls have long been considered the gold standard for engaging in responsible arms trading and we will continue to use them under our own laws. The ATT is simply not needed for the United States to engage in responsible arms trade.’
In a statement the UK Foreign Office said it ‘regretted’ the US decision: ‘The ATT is the only legally binding treaty, regulating and promoting legitimate and responsible trade in conventional arms. It remains a unique and valuable instrument.
‘We will continue to work with the US, as responsible arms trade partners, on tackling illicit arms transfers and ensuring the right conditions for a responsible, legitimate arms trade. We continue to encourage other states to join the Treaty, this is important for the ATT to function effectively, and we continue to support and encourage implementation of the ATT by existing and new States Parties.’