BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China’s top legislative body voted to join a global treaty on arms sales in a move that supports Beijing’s efforts to contrast itself with US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decided to join the Arms Trade Treaty during a meeting that ended on Saturday (June 20), the official Xinhua News Agency said.
China had initially withheld support from the treaty, which regulates cross-border trade in several categories of conventional arms and prohibits their transfer under certain circumstances.
It decided to sign it after Mr Trump announced plans last year to pull the US out.
The treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 and entered into force in December 2014, setting rules for participating nations on the sales and transfer of small arms, missile launchers and warships. More than 100 countries have ratified or agreed to abide by it.
In April 2019, Mr Trump said the US would pull out of the treaty, which was signed by then Secretary of State John Kerry but never ratified by the US Senate.
It is one of several international agreements reached under then President Barack Obama from which Mr Trump has moved to withdraw, including the Paris Agreement on combating climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
Mr Trump has pushed countries such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to buy more weapons from the US, in part to narrow the country’s trade deficits. In September, Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Yi told the UN General Assembly in New York that his country had started the legal process of joining the treaty.
China has in recent years become one of the world’s largest arms exporters, along with the US, Russia, France and Germany, and mainly sells to countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Chinese defence contractors have found ready markets overseas by offering low-cost weapons with few of the caveats imposed by most Western suppliers.