Let’s talk about the G7’s key role in the global arms trade ahead of this week’s summit

Banner saying "War is business"

The UK is due to host the G7 summit in Cornwall from 11 to 13 June. Representatives from other G7 nations – France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the US, and Japan – will be attending. But discussion about G7 countries’ key role in the global arms trade is unlikely to be a priority.

Resist G7 (RG7) is a coalition of local, national, and international groups that has formed to “build resistance and positive alternatives to the G7”. And as it stresses on its website:

The G7 countries are responsible for the vast majority of arms sales that take place globally. They have a vested interest in upholding the system that facilitates weapons being sold to other murderous regimes to kill and repress people around the world. And it is this system that enforces the borders which people have to risk their lives crossing to flee from the bombs G7 countries have sold.

G7 fueling the arms trade: the numbers

According to the March 2021 Trends in International Arms Transfers report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), five G7 nations are in the top ten of arms exporters for the 2016–2020 period. The US sits at number one, with around 37% of all arms exports. France is in third place, Germany fourth, the UK sixth, and Italy tenth. Together, G7 arms exports easily surpass 50% of total global sales.

The main recipient of US, UK, and Canadian weapons was the Saudi Arabian dictatorship. Authoritarian governments in Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Oman were also key recipients of G7 weapons.

The colonialist apartheid regime of Israel, meanwhile, received almost all its arms imports from G7 countries, with the US alone providing 92%. Saudi Arabia was in a similar situation as it led the decimation of neighbouring Yemen, receiving 79% of its arms from the US and around 9% from the UK.

G7 nations also hold five places in the top ten military spenders in the world, according to SIPRI’s April 2021 Trends in World Military Expenditure report. The US again sits at number one, with 39% of the world’s military spending. The UK came in fifth place, Germany in seventh, France in eighth, and Japan in ninth. Following close behind are Italy in eleventh and Canada in thirteenth. So again, the G7 nations together easily surpass 50% of the world’s total military spending.

Profiting from war

Durham University’s Global Policy journal highlighted the link between the G7 nations and the international arms trade in 2018. It said:

many of the G7 leaders continue to ignore the connection between the arms trade and the development failures that it can provoke and which they claim to want to overcome.

As it explained:

Even though the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2014, several of the G7 leaders supply arms to Saudi Arabia… . The ATT prohibits the transfer of arms that could be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

So by selling arms to serial human rights abusers from Saudi Arabia to Israel, the G7 would seem to be undermining the ATT. And as the journal added:

the world’s leading economies are profiting from arming poor countries and in the process are reducing spending that would, otherwise, be directed towards poverty alleviation and meaningful development.

With this in mind:

It is therefore not surprising that arms trade regulation has not made it onto previous agendas.

“Take to the streets”

Opposition to the G7’s role in the global arms trade, however, isn’t the only reason to resist the Cornwall summit. There won’t just be local disruption due to a heavy police presence; there’ll also be opposition to the choice of location. Because as RG7 previously insisted:

The G7 is taking place in Cornwall, one of the poorest places in Europe. …

Local people are angry and we want our voices heard. …

Our voices will not be heard unless we take to the streets.

RG7 has called for three days of protest:

  • Friday 11 June – climate day of action
  • Saturday 12 June – internationalist day of action
  • Sunday 13 June – repression and surveillance day of action, including a Kill The Bill Cornwall G7 special.

Main article image via Campaign Against Arms Trade