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New Weapons and Markets Research Note: Small Arms Transfers: Importing States

Since 2001 at least 15 countries have imported more than USD 100 million worth of small arms in a single calendar year. The United States is the world’s largest importer, having received more than USD 1billion in small arms in both 2007 and 2008.

Five countries— Canada, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom—also routinely imported more than USD 100 million in small arms a year during the period 2001–08. However, imports by the United States average more than the combined averages of these five states.

A new Small Arms Survey Research Note—Small Arms Transfers: Importing States—offers an assessment of those countries with small arms imports of the greatest value.

Nine other countries—Australia, Cyprus, Egypt, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey—have imported USD 100 million or more in small arms in a calendar year since 2001, but not routinely. And 66 additional countries have imported small arms valued at USD 10 million or more in a calendar year since 2001 (see Table 1). Of note is that these importers (81) far outnumber states (49) believed to have exported USD 10 million in small arms in a calendar year since 2001.

The reason for this is that when national defence and security forces often procure weapons and ammunition, they often retain their older weapon stocks for some time, and when surpluses are exported for sale it is usually at a considerably lower value.

Additionally, many ‘importers’ are, in reality, ‘trans-shippers’. While they may report having imported small arms, they are not the final destination for the transfer in question and subsequently ‘re-export’ the weapons.


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