WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Friday announced the United States will withdraw from the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, a compact that requires countries to put in place regulations on the international sale of certain types of weapons.
The United States signed the treaty in 2013, but the Senate never ratified it. Trump's move on Friday asked the Senate to send the treaty back and a senior administration official said the administration will formally notify the United Nations that the U.S. is withdrawing its signature in the coming days.
Trump made the announcement in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, which has been critical of the agreement as a potential international infringement on American gun laws.
"We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedoms," Trump said Friday, according to a White House pool report. "We will never ratify the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. I hope you're happy."
The senior administration official cited potential changes to the treaty and concerns about their impacts on domestic gun laws as a primary reason for pulling out of the agreement.
But Jeff Abramson, a senior fellow at the Forum on the Arms Trade, said such concerns are overblown because the agreement is "about the international export of weapons," not domestic laws.
The treaty is in full force in 101 countries and an additional 34 countries that signed the agreement have not yet ratified it. Among the list of weapons the treaty regulates are tanks, artillery, combat aircraft, missile launchers and small arms and light weapons.
It requires countries that join the treaty to put in place a system to control the export and import of certain types of weapons and prohibits the sale of weapons if they will be used to commit genocide or crimes against humanity.
It also requires governments to consider whether exporting a weapon could have "negative consequences" on human rights.
The administration official cast the agreement as unnecessary, saying the U.S. already complies with its terms. The official noted countries like Russia and China are not part of the agreement, leaving two of the world's largest arms exporters out of its scope.
"We take a backseat to no one in terms of the responsible rules and practices in place to govern our conventional arms transfer policy," the senior administration official said. "That will remain in effect after the president's action today with respect to the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty."
But others who work on arms control issues slammed Trump's decision on Friday, calling it misguided and unnecessary.
"The president's action today is yet another mistaken step that threatens to make the world less safe, rather than more secure," Thomas Countryman, a lead U.S. negotiator on the treaty, said in a statement. "The ATT, if ratified by the U.S. Senate, would not require the United States to change anything in its law or procedures. It is sad, but to be expected, that this president opposes efforts to require other countries to meet the high standards of U.S. military export decisions."
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