Discussion of Next Steps for the Arms Trade Treaty
April 5, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Discussion of Next Steps for the Arms Trade Treaty
Stimson's Managing Across Boundaries Initiative hosted a discussion of the Arms Trade Treaty, which the United Nations General Assembly voted to adopt April 2. After two weeks of deliberations from March 18-28, the United Nations Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty ended without consensus when Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked the treaty's adoption. Led by a group of 12 countries, including the United States, the General Assembly supported the overwhelming majority of states in favor of an ATT.
Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State and head of U.S. delegation to the ATT Conference.
Remy Nathan, vice president, international affairs, Aerospace Industries Association.
Galen Carey, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Rachel Stohl, senior associate, Managing Across Boundaries, the Stimson Center.
The ATT is the first treaty regulating the international trade in conventional arms by establishing common international standards for national implementation. The absence of such international standards has fueled conflicts, armed violence, and crime around the world by allowing rogue regimes, rebel groups, terrorist organizations, and criminals to be armed with impunity. For decades, states have tried to close these dangerous loopholes without success.
The United States, which maintains the "gold standard" of regulations for conventional arms transfers and is the largest conventional arms exporter, played a major role in the negotiations. The United States maintains strong national security, political, commercial, and humanitarian interests in seeing a strong, practical, and effective treaty and to see U.S. export control standards promoted globally. This event highlighted the reactions to the successful adoption of the treaty from key U.S. stakeholders and discuss what comes next for the ATT.
Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service
April 5, 2013 Friday
Discussion with Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation; Remy Nathan, Vice President, International Affairs, Aerospace Industries Association; Galen Carey, Vice President, National Association of Evangelicals Subject: Next Steps for the Arms Trade Treaty Moderator: Rachel Stohl, Senior Associate, Managing Across Boundaries, Stimson Center Location: Stimson Center, Washington, D.C. Time: 9:07 a.m. EDT Date: Friday, April 5, 2013
LENGTH: 11793 words
Discussion with Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation; Remy Nathan, Vice President, International Affairs, Aerospace Industries Association; Galen Carey, Vice President, National Association of Evangelicals Subject: Next Steps for the Arms Trade Treaty Moderator: Rachel Stohl, Senior Associate, Managing Across Boundaries, Stimson Center Location: Stimson Center, Washington, D.C. Time: 9:07 a.m. EDT Date: Friday, April 5, 2013
RACHEL STOHL: Thank you. I'm really -- I'm delighted that we could do this today. It's only been about three days -- (laughter) -- since we actually achieved the treaty's adoption at the General Assembly. So I think some of us are still -- what -- where are we, what -- who are we talking to; are we excited; are we overwhelmed? Certainly I am particularly overwhelmed and pleased that we did have the result that we did. As Ellen (sp) said, it has been quite a roller coaster, not only the past years, but I would say the past five days in terms of what happened at the United Nations. And certainly we don't need to get too bogged down in process, but if people are interested in kind of how this treaty ended up at the General Assembly and in the vote and in the way that it did, we can certainly touch on it.
But I do want to just start with a few opening comments about this panel and why I'm delighted that we have such different perspectives here. For the last six years, as I've -- as I've worked within the United Nations system but also outside of the U.N., I've noticed that the ATT brings together some strange bedfellows, whether it's African and Caribbean states kind of pleading with the international community to have this treaty to support their fledgling democracies or to stop arms trafficking in their regions, which affects their development and their -- and their economic opportunities or it's the world's largest exporters figuring out, you know, what can we do to better ensure that the legitimate trade in arms is protected and that the global supply chain is allowed to operate without interference, whether it's emerging markets or trans- shipment states or even importers that are saying, you know, how do I still play in this game of the -- of the international arms trade, understanding kind of the accountability and transparency that should and could exist, but still allowing us to acquire the arms that we need for self-defense.
You know, that's a big piece of it. But it's also the piece of civil society that's reminding people why we need this treaty, the human suffering that's caused by the illicit and irresponsible arms trade and the industry community that's saying, you know, we need to make sure that when we have rules of the game, everybody knows what those rules are, that we don't, you know, unintentionally impede the global trade in arms, that we keep the global supply chain open. All of these constituencies working together kind of for common cause really has been quite an experience and journey to see how all these different people can come together.
And that's kind of what I wanted to do today is bring three different perspectives from the United States that can look at what has just happened and where do we go from here. So that's the intention of today. And rather than having panel discussions, which some of us have listened to states just getting up and speaking ad nauseam for weeks on end -- (laughter) -- I thought perhaps we would do this more as a discussion.
So my intention today is to start with a few questions that I have for our panelists but then really to open to you to see what issues are you concerned about or interested in about the ATT and what happens next in the United States but also globally.
So that's just by way of introduction, and I'm going to start with -- you have the biographies of all of our speakers, but just to remind you, let me introduce our very esteemed panel. As Ellen (sp) mentioned, we have Tom Countryman, the assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation at the State Department. He was the lead negotiator this year at the Arms Trade Treaty conference and really kind of pushed the treaty across the finish line. And then we have Galen Carey, the vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, who represents the NAE before Congress, the White House and the courts on a variety of issues important to the NAE. And then we're joined by Remy Nathan, who's vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, which represents the nation's leading aerospace and defense manufacturers. So delighted to have all of them with you for them to share their insights.
So let's start with Tom. Why do you think -- you know, it has been a roller coaster, and the U.S. has been criticized in the past for its role in this process. And in fact, the U.S. opposed joining this process initially when it started. Why now does the U.S. support this treaty so much, and why did it work so hard at the UNGA to really push it -- push it forward?
THOMAS COUNTRYMAN: Well, thank you, Ellen (sp) and Rachel. And let me add my praise to Rachel, to Ambassador Wolcott and his predecessor, Ambassador Garcia Moritan, to the civil society, the business groups that have pushed for this not just in the U.S. but globally.
And I wouldn't agree with your characterization that the U.S. delegation pushed this across the finish line. This was the involvement of hundreds of delegations that worked very hard on this for years, and the job of the United States was to ensure that it would result in a treaty that was both meaningful and that the United States could embrace. That was achieved. And now the harder and more important part begins, which is getting all the countries, including many of those who were the strongest advocates, to actually do what the treaty requires.
The treaty that we achieved will make a difference over time in contributing to the humanitarian objectives that were the original motivation. It will make a difference in reducing the supply of weapons to the worst people in the world, to those who are fueling conflict in Africa and elsewhere.
It does at the same time achieve a balance between the interests of importing and exporting states, and most importantly, it creates obligations on the part of importing and exporting and transit states.
It achieves also a goal that was always important to the United States, which is an affirmation that this is not an arms control treaty; this is a treaty to regulate a legitimate commercial activity, which is the trade in conventional arms. And it's achieved that goal as well.
So the reason that the United States fought hard over years and particularly last July to make all of those goals achievable, that it's implementable, that it is meaningful and that it will not touch upon the rights of American citizens and that it will not hurt American business, that was what motivated our hesitation at the critical moment last July when we had a text that was far from perfect in places. As good as the concepts that were contained in that text, at times, it was far from legible. And I'm struck by the number of delegations and civil society organizations that have said privately in recent days that it was probably a good thing that we did not do this last July, that the text that we ended up with this week is superior to anything we could've accomplished with 12 hours of frenzied activities last July 28th.
So this is why the United States is on board with the treaty, why we push it, because it is a treaty that will make a difference in the world over time, that affirms that the standards the United States pursues in making decisions on export of weapons, which we believe to be the highest standards of any country in the world, that these standards are now aspirational and in part required of every country, which we believe will have an important effect in leveling the playing field for the legitimate trade in conventional arms -- and, also of great importance to the United States, that this treaty in no way touches the constitutional rights of American citizens.
From the beginning, this -- the Obama administration has made clear it is not the job of the United Nations to regulate in any way the constitutional rights under the Second Amendment of American citizens. That's a job for the Congress. That's a job for the states. And we achieved a treaty that meets that standard. So for all those reasons, the United States was happy to work with great partners, not just to achieve a good text but to embrace it.
MS. STOHL: Can I ask you to elaborate on that last point you made about the Second Amendment rights? Because I think in Washington we're hearing from some of those opposed to the ATT that this is a U.N. global gun grab and that Second Amendment rights have been infringed and the U.S. should not ratify this treaty. What is your response to that criticism?
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Well, I know that the criticism comes from patriotic Americans who have genuine concerns and who are actively engaged in a political debate today about gun regulation in the United States, a debate that is entirely separate from any issue covered in the ATT. And as it sometimes happens in Washington, some of those have crossed the line from passionate advocacy of their position into outright misrepresentation. I don't know if that's intentional of not, but the fact is this is about international trade. And it says so everywhere in the treaty again and again. It talks about establishing lists of weapons that need to -- categories of weapons that need to be controlled for export. It does not talk anywhere about making lists of gun owners, as has been falsely alleged in some of the press.
So I think that there may be an effort that gets mixed up with an entirely separate issue here. But anyone who has read the treaty -- and I do fear that there are few opponents who actually read the treaty -- (laughter) -- will have to conclude objectively that this is about international trade. The language of the treaty again and again is absolutely clear that it creates no new obligations. And I think that's an important point for any who criticize it that the -- there is no change in legislation or policy or procedures that the United States needs to make as a result of this treaty.
The United States already implements this treaty in its entirety in the export controls that are there and that have been wisely established by the Congress in order for the United States to be a responsible citizen of the world. I can't see why there should be opposition to a United States hope that other citizens meet the same standards of world citizenship that the United States Congress has insisted upon for decades.
MS. STOHL: Thank you. Final question for you, Tom. What are the next steps for the U.S.? The treaty opens for signature on the 3rd of June. Hopefully the U.S. will be the first one to sign. But what comes next? There's ratification after that. What do you see as the next steps for this treaty in the U.S.?
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Well, as I said, with the help of a lot of great partners in New York, we have a treaty now that, in our view, does not require any changes in U.S. legislation. Still, for any treaty that the U.S. is considering signing, there is a careful review process that involves many agencies of the U.S. government, that involves a restudy of every possible angle, that concludes that here are things that the U.S. may wish to state at the time of signature or here are shifts that may or may not be necessary that could be considered. And that goes in a package to the president when he is asked to sign. For any treaty, that process takes time, and I would say months at a minimum.
The ATT is not the most complex treaty I've ever seen, but it's certainly not the simplest, and I expect that the decision -- that the process of deciding on signature will take some time. Ratification is a future question that I think we'll address only after we've signed the treaty. And that of course is dependent upon a number of other issues as well. There are a number of treaties that the United States needs to ratify and that the president is determined to ratify that have been in the queue much longer than this one. And that includes the Law of the Sea and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We would hope to see Senate action on those treaties in the near future. So let me not speculate about a date when it would be possible to ratify this treaty as well.
MS. STOHL: Thank you.
Galen, Tom said at the outset that one of the goals of this treaty was this humanitarian objective. How do you see -- and in fact, the ATT has been called -- it's not a disarmament treaty, it's a trade treaty, but it's also a humanitarian treaty. And in fact, if you look at the object and purpose of the treaty, it is to reduce human suffering. And so how do you think -- we're not going to see this in the next two years, the next five years. I mean, 10 years or so before we even can measure the impact of the ATT. But how do you see this treaty reducing human suffering and stopping the humanitarian consequences?
GALEN CAREY: Well, thank you, Rachel. Before I go into that one, if I could just pick up on something that Tom just said, we understand that there's a process of review that's needed. In our view, it'd be very significant if that review could be expedited in such a way that on June 3 the United States could be at the front of the line signing this treaty and giving it an extra push. I think that would be a very strong challenge to other countries like China, India and some that abstained in the vote last week and would be a strong statement of American values. So that would be our encouragement on that question. (Laughter.)
And part of the reason that that's so important is because of the humanitarian crisis that so many people around the world face. And I think for many of us who live here in the United States in reasonably secure and stable conditions, we sometimes have trouble really grasping how devastating and disrupting it is to live in a place where armed groups roam the country, sometimes with impunity, able to murder or rape, steal and disrupt, force people to flee from their homes.
I've had the privilege of living and working abroad for nearly two decades in several parts of Africa and Asia, and in several of those places, there are places that have been wracked with terrible crises caused by long-running civil conflicts, for example, Mozambique. It was one of the first places that I served. I personally experienced armed conflict several times. About a week after I arrived, I was robbed at gunpoint, our home was broken into, and several things that were traumatizing to us, but I'm here -- lived to tell about it.
I think many people who didn't, people who died -- we -- while we were in Mozambique, we adopted a refugee boy who was a -- who was a -- who had grown up in the eastern Congo, had fled the conflict there, his family completely disrupted and many of his relatives killed by people that had no business having weapons in the first place.
As Tom said, certainly we expect that national governments and police forces and so on will keep the peace, and weapons are needed for that. We understand that, and we definitely support that.
But weapons should not be sold to people those main purpose is to cause terror and mayhem around the world. And that's, in fact, what happens way too often, that -- we know this treaty will not completely solve that problem, but it will make a dent in it. And every life that is saved is a precious person made in God's image, and we believe that that dignity and sanctity of human life needs to be upheld. And this treaty is one piece in a broader toolbox of approaches that we can take that will reduce suffering and the loss of life around the world.
MS. STOHL: I think that actually leads to my next question, because (I think ?) people may be surprised to see the National Association of Evangelicals on this stage advocating for this treaty. Why do the evangelicals care about this treaty? What is the impetus for your involvement?
MR. CAREY: Well, sure. And let me say, first of all, that many evangelicals, like many other Americans, don't care about the treaty -- (laughter) -- because they never heard of it. And, you know, I think we have to ask, why is it that our media have not done a better job of supporting this? Even on the -- this historic day in which the treaty was approved, The Washington Post buried the article somewhere in the middle. I've searched (a couple days ?), and I finally found the article. And why is that?
Well, I don't want to speculate on why, but it's a -- it's a fact that many people know very little about the treaty, and that's why they are susceptible to these spurious Second Amendment arguments and so on because they haven't read the treaty, they haven't heard it discussed or reported on. So I think we need to do a -- there's a great task of education that's before us.
The good news is that when people learn what's -- the treaty is really about, they are almost invariably supportive. I have not yet met a single person who, after talking about it, said, no, I still think this is a bad idea. So it's -- the opportunity is there for us to make the case.
And for evangelicals, who we care about this because we are deeply involved in humanitarian and missionary work all around the world -- we support some of the largest private and nonprofit humanitarian groups that -- we support the largest missionary corps in the world.
And these are -- we are working places far from the headlight -- headlines, places where -- that are many of them places that are -- that are places of conflict and suffering of different types. And so we see firsthand the impact that illicit weapons trade has on people that we care about, people that we believe, as I said, are made in God's image who need to be protected. And so when we -- when people learn about the treaty, they are I think going to be very supportive, and so -- but for those who don't know, we need to help them.
MS. STOHL: Great. Thank you.
I think probably the -- that kind of follows to you. I mean, many people may not know that industry played a crucial role, not only in this country but internationally. And on many international delegations, you had industry representatives actually part of the negotiating teams. And so I guess my question for you is, what were your concerns or what issues were you looking at as this treaty entered the last round of negotiations? What were kind of the red flag issues for you?
REMY NATHAN: Thank you, Rachel. And thank you -- good morning, everyone.
As you mentioned, the concerns of the U.S. industry that I represent were actually shared by a number of our foreign colleagues. We are a global industry. We have global partners that we work with to support our country's national security and foreign policy objectives through legitimate defense trade. And in that regard, I would say, first and foremost, we share in the commitment to the ultimate goals of the treaty, to combat illicit trade -- and again, always important to make that distinction.
The first major concern, I would say -- again, broadly speaking -- is making sure -- was making sure that there were no unintended consequences when it came to the language of the treaty in affecting the legitimate trade in defense goods, either now or in the future because of course, the provisions of the treaty right now and then going forward will be further interpretation and implementation.
And again, I would also say that as much as we are concerned about the impact of the treaty on exports for our industry -- and the U.S. is a -- is a -- is a global leader in defense exports -- we are very concerned about imports because, as I mentioned, we have a global supply chain, and the extent to which other countries' rules and processes affect our ability to receive exports -- (in a sense ?) import -- has broader implications as we are developing technologies to support the U.S. war fighter.
Also very concerned about how the treaty would relate to a process going on now that many of you might be familiar with that this administration has been pursuing now -- its first term and now into its second term -- of export control reform. The U.S. is, of course, the gold standard when it comes to export controls, and the companies I represent are committed to being in compliance with that system. Having said that, it is also a system that many have often said could be more predictable, efficient and transparent -- and wanted to make sure that the treaty was appropriately reconciled with those goals.
A particular element of the ECR initiative has to do with management of parts and components. I know this was a major provision to be dealt with in the treaty. And to help illustrate it, I've actually brought props. I've already warned my colleagues that I've just met here at the ATF that I have brought munitions into the room. (Laughter.)
So these are hoses. Hold them up for the folks in the back. One of them is on the U.S. Munitions List right now. And one of them is -- and I'm not going to tell you which one because I probably could get arrested. As I said, there is law enforcement in the room. (Laughter.) It's difficult to talk about technology when you're -- when you're dealing with regulatory language. It's difficult to talk about technology when you're dealing with treaty language -- so even as this administration is moving forward with its process to remove essentially commercial technologies from the U.S. Munitions List that the provisions took into account that difficulty of managing parts and components.
MS. STOHL: So maybe that -- so maybe the follow-up question is what was your reaction when you saw the actual final text? Because as Tom mentioned, the text from 26 July, the text that we've now seen emerge from the -- from the process -- these are vastly different. One was very much a framework; the other is very much a legal document that has much more clarification and less ambiguity -- still some ambiguity, creative ambiguity, but less -- (laughter) -- but less ambiguity.
MR. NATHAN: Sure. And again, you know, the words matter. I think everyone can agree with the concepts. The words do matter. Like another body that we're talking about here, my organization is a consensus-based organization as well. (Laughter.) And we're still in the process of parsing through the language.
Having said that, there is -- there is universal acclaim for the efforts of the U.S. delegation in working with our industry, in taking into consideration our views, our details -- our details about our business processes, because it is so easy to -- just a word here, a word there has different meaning. And our commitment to compliance is such that our industry always takes the most stringent interpretation possible.
So for now I would say that, you know, we're still looking through the language. So far I've gotten some good feedback, as I said, on the disposition of parts and components. But we will be looking very closely again at both how the U.S. government as well as our foreign partners overseas are managing the interpretation and implementation, and hopefully we will have some input into that process.
MS. STOHL: Great. Thank you.
MR. COUNTRYMAN: If I could just assure you on that point, our review process prior to a decision on signature will include consultation with the U.S. defense industry.
MS. STOHL: Great.
MR. : Thank you, sir.
MS. STOHL: With that, I think it'd be most interesting to open up for questions and comments from the floor. So I will just -- if you could identify yourself -- and I believe we have mics that will be passed around. So if you can identify yourself -- (off mic) --
Q: Thank you. Thank you. My name is Steve Hirsch (sp). I'm a freelance journalist -- (inaudible). I have two questions. I understand that the treaty is aimed at moving everybody aspirationally toward various standards and so on and so forth. Would you -- my first question is would you tell us specifically, if this treaty were to be put into force, what its impact would be on the international trade in arms going to conflict regions? And I say this knowing that Mr. Nathan just said that this would not affect what we call legitimate trade in arms, which we assume is sanctioned trade by the big arms exporters like the United States. And I'm not talking about dual-use hoses and stuff. I assume therefore that most of the impact would be on what they call nonstate exports. My second question is if this treaty has no impact on U.S. law, which I gather is the case, would it have any impact on the export of weapons -- the transfer of weapons across the Mexican border as it now stands? Thanks.
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Are you looking at me? Thanks, Mr. -- on the first question, couple of points. One, the treaty is -- (inaudible) -- this is implemented by states. There are national control mechanisms to make decisions on export of arms. And the -- therefore the effect it will have will depend upon the seriousness with which each state approves it, or implements it, rather. I have no doubt that if every state went beyond what the treaty requires and considered the full range of issues that the United States does in its export control system that there would be fewer exports to areas of conflict. But I can't predict how rapidly that might occur or whether every state will faithfully implement the requirements of this treaty.
Q: But you must have some idea. I mean -- I mean, this has been a major effort. You must have some idea what the goal -- in terms of cutting into arms trading.
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Yeah. No, I think the goals of the treaty are in the text. And as Rachel put it, they are clearly ambiguous, right? (Laughter.) For the vast majority of states, there can be no question that the operative clauses of the treaty, that which is being required, directs states to be -- to take a stricter approach to export of weapons that can be used to commit violations of human rights, war crimes, et cetera.
Therefore, on the first part, the national control of exports, there should be a reduction, as this is implemented, in the sale to those states that are committing such abuses.
The second part -- what I consider a second major goal of this treaty that we haven't quite touched on yet, involves cooperation by states against those who practice in the black market or the gray market for arms. And there is -- there are important provisions that are not binding -- they are more hortatory -- that require or encourage states to work together to share information, to have mutual legal assistance and judicial and legal cooperation against those illegal arms dealers. And I think if that part is also implemented faithfully, we'll see a reduction in the ability of those illegal arms dealers ply their wares.
Now, your second question was, again --
MS. STOHL: Mexico.
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Mexico. This deals with exports and the legitimate arms trade. The question of illegitimate, illegal arms trade or smuggling in either direction across borders remains one for domestic law enforcement, and it is one in which Mexico and the United States are constantly improving their cooperation. There is a lot more to do in that era -- in that area, but I think this treaty can give further encouragement, but it does not directly change the legal framework under which the U.S. and Mexico already cooperate well against such illegal transfers.
MR. NATHAN: And actually, if I could just jump in (ship/quick ?) to clarify a statement that I think you made within your question, I'm -- I am not able to say at this time that this treaty will not have an impact on the legitimate defense trade because that will be determined over time based on interpretation and implementation. If, as the assistant secretary was saying, that after the analysis is taken by the U.S. government, that absolutely no changes need to be done, obviously, the U.S. industry works under this current system. We have no problems when it comes to our system in export. But as I mentioned, we are part of a global industry and a global supply chain. And so we must constantly make sure that our other partners, our allies that we work with, are also looking at the text of the treaty and taking into consideration the legitimate defense trade and our need to be able to work with each to support legitimate defense trade.
Q: Do you expect it will affect legitimate U.S. arms exports?
MR. NATHAN: Based on what the assistant secretary is saying, if things go forward without any change to the U.S. system, then the answer is no because we operate under the U.S. system, so --
MR. COUNTRYMAN: I expect the answer is no, unless it is positive.
MS. STOHL: (Chuckles.)
MR. COUNTRYMAN: That is, in -- it is a competitive market out there. States have legitimate needs to defend themselves against other states, against aggressors, against terrorism. And in that field, the United States, with its complex and rigorous export control system, we institute that system even conscious of the fact that it can be a deterrent to sales, that some states aren't willing to put up with it, to the extent that every state and all the major exporters implement this treaty, it does a lot to level the playing among all arms exporters in the world in the legitimate trade. So I would expect, if there's any effect on U.S. industry, it would be positive, but I'm not prepared to promise that. I think that we need to study during the process leading up to signature.
MR. NATHAN: I will agree with that assessment, that that positive outcome is also a possibility.
MS. STOHL: And I think the other important point to note that's been missed here is that the United States, most of its European allies, have sophisticated export control systems already. They may not fully be as much in compliance with the ATT as the U.S. system, but there is at least a baseline. But there are many countries that have no control system whatsoever, whether it's export or import or transshipment or brokering. And that's how legal arms are diverted into the illicit market, is taking advantage of the loopholes that exist in those countries. So the idea here was to bring other countries that had nascent or nonexistent systems up to the standards of the United States and its closest allies in order to better regulate and control globally the arms trade, which then levels the playing field for everybody.
MR. NATHAN: And actually, to that point, I guess another positive that we should acknowledge, the U.S. will not engage in defense trade with countries that do not have adequate export control systems because of the concern about diversion. To the extent that the treaty may have a positive impact on those countries, to give them some guidance on how to elevate -- I know the U.S. government works very closely with many countries to try to improve their own systems, that potentially opens up legitimate trade into those areas.
MS. STOHL: Exactly. And there's two articles in the treaty that encourage -- in some cases stronger than encourage -- states to work cooperatively to build up their systems and build capacity.
Q: Hi, I'm Jeff Abramson with Control Arms. And let me also congratulate the team that was involved in making this happen. It's not even 72 hours since the U.N adopted this, and it's hard to remember it was still this week for those of us who are up -- (inaudible).
I, and I think many on the panel, face media questions and watch what the media does, and I think the media's getting some of the story wrong. So I wanted to ask how he responds or what he thinks on this. There's a lot in the media now looking at the Senate and the actions that they're doing. And I want to try to convince them that that's the wrong place to be looking right now. I think in your comments you've talked about how, you know, as you approached this negotiation you had standards in place that this wouldn't impact where the U.S. works -- those have been met -- that the issue now is not about what's happened in the Senate. It's the next step, is toward signature. And there's also some reasons why that needs to be move forward.
So I'm wondering how you look at the coverage that, and what's your sense of sort of that piece of the media? And I have another question later, but I'll see if somebody else asks on the other part -- (inaudible).
MR. COUNTRYMAN: In my long experience, I've seldom found that there's any gain to be had in criticizing the media. (Laughter.)
The -- certainly ratification is, as I said, a separate decision with potentially a moment way off. Signature is an immediate concern. And it is worthwhile for everyone, whether media, advocacy groups, industry groups to be engaged in a careful study, as all U.S. agencies will do now, on the effects of signature upon our policy. I'll repeat: I don't believe that there are any, but there may be interpretations or implications that ought to be studied and considered and made explicit before the point of signature. And that would be a valuable national discussion. As Galen said, most Americans will not be interested in engaging in that discussion, but there's important work to be done by experts.
At the same time, what I hope the global media and the global civil society and businesses and professionals and think tanks would be talking about is, how is this implemented globally? How do we get a number of the countries that were the strongest advocates of this -- and I'm thinking specifically about a number of African countries -- not only to embrace it, sign it, ratify it, but also to do what was always within their power to do, to write strong export and import law, to take additional actions to put themselves in a position to meet the goals of the treaty.
I think it's important to note that the United States has always supported concrete actions that support the goals of this treaty. My bureau, the State Department's International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau, has programs with several dozen countries in which we help with their export and import laws and enforce them. The Department of Defense has programs for stockpile management that make it easier for several dozen countries around the world to manage their legitimate weapons supply and prevent diversion from those supplies due to corruption or mismanagement.
We have a number of programs that have done an awful lot already to contribute to the capability of states in Africa and elsewhere, to reduce the problem of violence. And this is a good time to focus upon those states, also doing everything else they can under this treaty to meet the same goal.
MR. CAREY: And if I could just add to that, citizens and advocates all around the world have an opportunity with this treaty to more effectively engage their governments on these issues because they'll now be able to say, here's the international standard, and are we meeting it or not, and if not, there are things that we could be doing. So it's an important tool for all of us, as well as for governments to move forward.
MS. STOHL: Daryl.
Q: Thank you. Daryl Kimball. I'm the director of the Arms Control Association, and I want to join in congratulating Rachel and Tom and the U.S. team for an excellent effort and a strong and effective treaty. And one comment and then a question for Tom and Remy.
The -- I would align myself with Galen in recommending that the United States expedite the process for reviewing the treaty, particularly because there are some states that did abstain that are important for the success of the treaty in the long term.
The Russian explanation for its vote was contradictory and, in my view, not responsible. The Chinese objected on procedural grounds. It's very important that those two states as well as others become members of the treaty in good time. And to do that, it's going to take U.S. leadership, I believe. And so two months is a lot of time to review a treaty that you've been looking at for a long time. I hope that the president and his team can do that quickly and be there on June 3rd.
We were talking about the legitimate and the illegitimate trade. In my view, one of the important things about this treaty is it clarifies what's legitimate and what's not legitimate and defines it in a helpful way. And I really want to draw people's attention to Paragraph 3 in Article 6 because this goes to, you know, one of the questions that was asked earlier: What does this do in terms of making a difference? And among other things, this treaty prohibits transfers when the exporting state has knowledge that the weapons may be used for attacks on civilians. And that is very important. That sets a clear standard that is going to be useful down the road.
And I think -- and this comes to my question -- that creates responsibilities for governments to interpret that properly and implement the treaty appropriately, but also for industry. And so I'm wondering if -- Remy Nathan, if you could address the question of how industry not just in the United States but around the world might begin to discuss and develop some common guidelines and interpretations for their actions and their decisions, consistent with Article 6.3 and other elements, as a matter of corporate practice, so that we don't have irresponsible members of the defense industry skirting the boundaries.
And then Tom, if you could just elaborate a little bit more on how the U.S. might expand, improve our work to help other countries develop and implement more effective export control regulations, that would be helpful, because I agree with you, that's -- this is -- this is going to be the test of success of the treaty over time is how well states implement it and what their capacity is.
MS. STOHL: Remy, do you want to --
MR. NATHAN: I'll make a few observations. As I said, it's early days for us in terms of our deeper analysis. And again, we're going to be very reliant on our colleagues and our representatives in government to provide some clarity about what this treaty does mean in a U.S. context.
I guess I'll make -- I'll make two observations. As -- the point of -- that you raised about knowledge, where that kind of strikes a chord with me is just, again, with the world that I live in, with the world that our industry lives in, words matter. Definitions matter. And you know, I think the first step is to make sure that our government, other governments that we work with come to an understanding of what terms like that might mean and then provide guidance to our industry when it comes to our requirements to comply with the systems that we have to operate under.
In terms of the global dialogue on -- I mean, this is -- this has been the global dialogue, actually, on this treaty. I've been talking with my counterparts overseas for a number of years now about the treaty as it evolved and then moved into the negotiation phase and now into this phase. So that conversation has continued and will continue.
I guess my final point -- well, just again to reiterate the point that we do consider ourselves good corporate citizens of the countries in which we operate, but we rely heavily on our governments to provide our guidance when it comes to what we can sell, what we cannot sell, who we can work with, who we cannot work with, and it's our responsibility and theirs, I think, to work together to make sure that those decisions ultimately are consistent with national principles, national security and foreign policy.
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Thanks. On what else the U.S. can do to help other countries to implement this, I think -- three points. One is an expansion of the kind of programs that I've already mentioned. I don't expect that you will see a new budget line item that says, help states implement the ATT. What we do -- and it's certainly not only the State Department; as I mentioned, it's DOD; it's Homeland Security; it's Department of Justice and other agencies that, in the context of our general interest in promoting the rule of law throughout the world, have a number of programs that build capability, whether it is in law enforcement, in the judiciary or in writing legislation itself. And we'll continue those programs, perhaps with a new emphasis on those states that specifically need and ask for help in implementing the ATT.
Second is -- second point is writing legislation or regulations. The -- as you've seen in other international agreements, there are both states and civil society that cooperate in writing model legislation.
Another area in which we've been involved recently, for example, is writing international health regulations with the cooperation of the World Health Organization, model documents that can be adopted according to each country's needs and then passed by a legislature. And I think this will be an important effort. I don't expect that the United States will be the lead or the only actor in such an effort.
And third is also terribly important. And it is perhaps more political than legal assistance. This treaty has reaffirmed something that was already true, that states have an obligation under the United Nations to enforce the U.N. Security Council decisions on arms embargoes. Right now there are UNSC resolutions that prohibit the export or import of weapons by Iran or by North Korea. I'm trying to remember why those two go together. (Laughter.)
The problem is there still are some states that do trade with Iran or North Korea in the military field as the same time that they have been advocates of this treaty. And it is a good moment to use the additional leverage that this treaty creates to remind those states of their obligations now, not only under the U.N. Security Council in the U.N. charter but additionally under the ATT, to cut off that kind of trade. And I think it's important that there be first private and eventually clear united public messages to those states that have not yet enforced those obligations.
MS. STOHL: Thank you.
This gentleman with -- second row.
I'm sorry. Behind -- (off mic). Sorry.
Q: Thank you. I'm Steve Colecchi with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I -- the Holy See, the Vatican, was very involved in the whole process of the arms trade treaty. And I don't want to rain on the parade, and, you know, treaties are always a part of politics, and politics is the art of the possible, but the Holy See, although it welcomed the treaty as maybe a step toward greater accountability and responsibility, also pointed out the considerable gaps in the treaty.
And I just -- I wanted to mention them and then get comments from the panel: that the treaty has a greater emphasis on states' prerogatives than on dignity and human rights of people, that the predominance of commercial and economic considerations within the treaty is paramount, and that there is an inadequate elaboration of the rights of victims' assistance and of the need to reduce demand for arms -- because the arms transfers cannot be regarded as a legitimate economic pursuit just like any other; I mean, they do have very dramatic human consequences. And so I just wanted -- you know, that's a -- support of the treaty as a step, but as a modest step and then pointing out -- I was wondering, any commentary on the critique or the gaps at least that the Holy See sees?
MS. STOHL: Sure. (Off mic) -- just pass it on.
MR. : Well --
MR. : I'll let you -- (off mic).
MR. : Sure.
MR. NATHAN: I guess the -- a point that I'll raise -- I think that -- and I'll ask the assistant secretary to perhaps comment as he's also going to be talking as well -- when it -- when it comes to the treaty, and also when it comes to the initiative that this administration is pursuing for export control reform, the economic side of the equation is not primary, it's not secondary, it's not tertiary. At the end of the day, the decisions that are being from the U.S. perspective, from my understanding, both the treaty and for the administration's pursuit of export control reform, are fundamentally grounded in supporting U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives.
And I can say that with the utmost confidence because actually, there's a -- this gentleman at the back of the room here, who actually hired me 10 years ago -- about 10, 15 years before that was still working this same gig that I am. And so there's a long history -- and many of you that are involved in export control reforms attest to this -- a long history of industry complaining about the economic impact of the U.S. export control system. And we really did not move the needle at all by complaining about the fact that we weren't making as much money as we wanted to or able to hire as many people as we wanted to.
The change that happened in this system, in the U.S. system, that's happening right now is happening because there is a recognition that within the U.S. perspective of the global security arena, we need to work more closely with our allies and partners. We need to work more closely with them in terms of operating with them. We need to work more closely with them so that they can shoulder their burden and their shared burden with us when it comes to our security interests. And a way of doing that obviously is soft power. But a way of doing that is also legitimate defense trade. So I believe that that -- those concepts underpin and will continue to underpin the U.S. delegation going forward.
MR. CAREY: Well, I'd say the Vatican is certainly correct that it's not a perfect treaty, and I would -- I would speculate that the Vatican as well as evangelicals and others would say that even a perfect treaty would not usher in a period of universal peace and harmony. (Laughter.) It's, as you say, a step, and perhaps it's not as large a step as it might have been. But how large a step it turns out to be will depend a lot, as Tom said, on how it is implemented and how forcefully -- and I think the people of faith and other people concerned for a more peaceable world have an opportunity here to take what has been provided and to make it as effective as possible. And the more that we work on this, the more effective it will be.
MR. COUNTRYMAN: First, I hope it's OK with the U.S. bishops that this Catholic attended the evangelical prayer breakfast -- (laughter).
MR. CAREY (?): Evangelicals and Catholics pray together all the time. (Laughter.)
MR. COUNTRYMAN: I'm just checking on the state of (ecumenicalism ?). (Laughter.)
The Holy See in the negotiations, and of course behind-the-scenes work over the years, they helped to frame the context in which this treaty was adopted and put out, as it its appropriate role -- so pretty high aspirations.
Throughout the treaty negotiation process over the years, there's been a need to find the right balance between those who seek an aspirational or more ideal treaty and those who were focused on practical implementation, how it relates to the real world, to the actual practices of both the legal and the illegal arms trade. There was a good balance in the discussion, although I have to say there were a number of folks in New York who could not connect what we were discussing on paper with what was happening in the real world.
In the end, I don't think -- I think -- I don't think anybody got everything they wanted in this treaty, including the United States, and that's the inevitable outcome of a consensus-based process. And I do think that it has both aspirational and practical language that should attract the interests and the support of every state.
I have to disagree on one point, though, and that is a perception that there is a primacy of commercial interests. I can't find that in the texts. In fact, I could not find a single person in New York who would say: that my country is in the arms business for the money. It was taboo among these delegations to talk about the economic importance. It was strictly security and humanitarian were the discussions that we had. We think that the treaty appropriately describes the actual decision process that the U.S. and other major arms exporters go through, which is to consider the security reasons, the contributions to make this of peace and security that a particular weapons sales could make, and to balance that against the risk of negative outcomes. But nowhere in the discussion or in the text does it talk about commercial interests, because nobody admits that that's why they're in the arms business.
MS. STOHL: Thank you.
Here and then we'll move back to the other side of the room.
Q: Sam Gilston with the Export Practitioner. I'm not sure I defend all the media coverage of my colleagues. I would say that for reporters, criticizing the government is usually a good policy. (Laughter.)
My question goes to some of the comments that were made by the critics and opponents of the treaty during the closing session in that vote. Particular countries like Syria, Nicaragua, while they might have been hypocritical in their statements -- (inaudible) -- raise the question of how do you respond to their concerns? For instance Syria, the arms that are going to the opponents of the Assad regime in Syria, how will that company be treated by the treaty if people are being asked in the U.S. to support arms sales to the rebel groups? Would that -- would the treaty block those kinds of sales and cause the other countries that are supplying those arms to be considered in violation of the treaty if they signed it; and countries like Nicaragua, looking back to the '80s when they were -- you know, arms were being shipped into their country as opposed to the government. So how does the government -- how does the U.S. respond to that kind of criticism that the treaty doesn't or might affect that type of trade?
And some of the criticism also came from the Middle East countries about the treaty's lack of coverage of countries that are occupiers. It was certainly aimed at Israel. How does the U.S. government respond to concerns that -- criticism that this might -- should have affected Israel?
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Well, on the last point, I would say first, this was a treaty negotiation, not a Christmas tree decoration party. There's understandably, in almost any process in the United Nations, a desire on the part of states to put their favorite issue front and center and to insert language into the treaty that is irrelevant to the intent and content of the treaty. The consensus process gives states an opportunity and an opening to do that. That's one of the risks of going through consensus.
We think one of the benefits of insisting upon consensus was that it brought us to not our lowest common denominator but a centralized focus on what are the essential elements of such a treaty. And the fact is that statements about foreign occupation or global warning -- warming or biodiversity are not actually relevant to the intent and purposes of the treaty. Not surprising that they make them, not surprising that those are central issues for those delegations of those states to the United Nations, but in the end, it is not a process that is intended to give every state the opportunity to display its foreign policy priority. It's meant to be a more practical treaty. And it's largely succeeded in that.
On the first question, it was not quite humorous to listen to the Syrian representative speak at length about the need to prevent exports to nonstate terrorist actors. I wanted to write on the back of my card "Hezbollah" and hang it up there. (Laughter.) And it's not surprising that they would wish to focus it on the current campaign of oppression against the Syrian people carried out by the Assad regime. The treaty does not contain language that would automatically prohibit sales or delivery of weapons to the forces that are opposing the Assad regime in Syria, and that's clearly one of the reasons that Syria opposed the treaty. It does require any state that considers it to go through the important provisions of Article 6 and 7 to determine whether this is prohibited on the grounds that it could lead to a serious violation, a serious commission of war crimes or related crimes, and whether it would make a contribution or a subtraction from peace and security. There's no immediate answer that you can get to that -- those questions simply by filling in the name of the recipient. It requires a careful study by a national government on making that decision.
MS. STOHL: Can I just add a point, going back to your first question, that only three countries objected -- blocked this treaty: Syria, Iran and North Korea. Those that you mentioned, the Holy See or even Nicaragua, who might have expressed some concerns or some -- wished other things, would have been there, or maybe things were phrased differently, did not object to this treaty.
In my mind, this was the best treaty that this process could have accomplished. It really did reflect a balance. Is it perfect? No. Are there ways that it could be strengthened or improved? Absolutely. But those things can be left to the way that states implement the treaty. I don't think you needed to have every wish list, whether it was sustainable development or global warming -- or nuclear disarmament, even, which was discussed -- in this treaty to still reflect the values and the desires of many other countries.
I think those that abstained abstained for political reasons and didn't have to do primarily with the content of the text because they did not -- they had an opportunity to vote no, not only to break consensus on the first attempt but also to vote no then the second time. And the choice, I think, to abstain is incredibly powerful, for me, that they didn't then say, well, this is our opportunity to vote against, that they did still appreciate and support the spirit and the need for this treaty; there were just little tweaks that they would have allowed to see -- would have liked to see, and this allowed them that flexibility to make that political statement. So just wanted to make that point.
Q: Thank you. Good presentations, and thank you for your work. I'm Gary Helman (ph). I'm a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago.
If I could ask you to address the implications of the treaty for -- about criminal networks, that is, the deliberate violators -- if you could explain briefly how the treaty impacts criminal law enforcement in this context and especially prosecution. Do we have an expanded, from what had been, notion of aiding and abetting war crimes? Does this have implications for the scope of jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the sense that we are bringing in people who might not have otherwise been within the scope of the jurisdiction? So many have strange questions, but any guidance would really be appreciated.
MS. STOHL: Tom. (Laughter.)
MR. COUNTRYMAN: I benefited greatly in having a delegation that had a good number of excellent lawyers from across the U.S. government. I'm not one of them -- (laughter) -- not that I'm not a good lawyer; I'm just not a lawyer. (Laughter.) The -- and so you've asked a pretty wide range of questions that I don't really feel qualified to address. I don't know if -- I see Bill. (Laughter.)
MS. STOHL: (Inaudible.)
MR. COUNTRYMAN: Let me -- maybe I could ask a professor if -- we'll get you together with a couple members of my delegation who can give a more coherent answer as soon as we're done here.
Q: Zach Biggs, Defense News. There's mention, obviously, of Russia and China and their decision not to vote in favor of the treaty. If they do in fact decline to ratify it and if in fact your reading is correct and there's no significant change to U.S. export policy as part of this process -- those are three, obviously, of the largest arms dealers. Can the treaty still have a significant impact if those three countries see no significant change to their policies?
MR. COUNTRYMAN: The answer is yes. Certainly it is not our hope that China and Russia would remain outside the treaty. We think this treaty ought to be universal, and it should include all the major exporters, all the major importers. And I think that the genius of the process and of Ambassador Wolcott's leadership of the process was to arrive at a document that, as I said, is not lowest common denominator but is at the center, balanced between the interests and needs of exporting and importing states, creating obligations on all of them, and should be able to attract the adherence of all the major exporting and importing states. That's the goal.
Now, if it doesn't do so immediately, first, China and Russia do have export control systems. The Russians believe that their current export control system contains higher standards than that contained in the treaty, a point that they made more than once during the discussions. I'll leave that to others to analyze. The Chinese came a long way, from a complete lack of interest in this treaty to active engagement, and I have -- I think there are good reasons to hope that they will sign and ratify and apply this treaty.
Even if they don't, if the rest of the world does and follows seriously the cooperative steps against the illegal market, the steps that are contained in this treaty, if countries that are experiencing civil conflict write the import and export regulations and invest in their ability to enforce, this will have a significant impact and advance the humanitarian objectives of the treaty.
So I don't believe that either the United States or any other state should make its decision on ratification and adherence according to what China or Russia or any other single state does. This is, as for every other treaty that the U.S. Senate must eventually consider, should be based on a cold, hard analysis of whether it is in the United States' interest.
MS. STOHL: And I've been asked this question a lot, actually, that Russia and China abstain, and therefore they must not support the treaty. And having been part of the negotiations for six years, I can tell you that in this last push, both the Russian and the Chinese delegations were extremely committed to seeing a strong and balanced text. And I think truly that their abstentions actually gave them more political flexibility, that if they would have voted yes, that would have locked their political systems into a process where there would be an expectation that they would sign and ratify. This allows them that flexibility to look at the treaty, to really understand how it would need to be implemented and to make a political decision in capital that's outside of the politics of the United Nations.
So I was not upset or discouraged at all by the Russian and Chinese abstention. I think that it really allowed -- they didn't object. They -- and they were very constructive partners, publicly and behind the scenes, to ensure that their issues were met.
And China in particular, for a country that started out saying no, no, no to a whole variety of issues that were inherently important to the structure of this treaty, to then say, OK, this is actually important, and to become advocates for those elements, I think, is -- demonstrates the long journey.
MR. CAREY: I think as well we could just try to reframe it so it's not a win-lose but this is win-win-win for everybody. And any country that wants to play a leading role in world affairs has the benefit when there's clear rules on to prevent the kind of destabilizing violence that the illicit arms trade makes possible.