ATT: The Beginning of the End Game

The U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) conference released a second draft text late in the afternoon on Thursday. After initial reactions from states, the questions still at issue came into focus. In order of significance, the top five questions are:

1. Will the treaty be amendable by consensus or by two-thirds majority? The first draft text, released Tuesday, allowed amendments by a two-thirds majority of signatories. This means that, if the U.S. signed and ratified the treaty, its foreign policy and constitutional liberties would be subject to majority rule. The new draft requires amendment by consensus.

A consensus mechanism is far from perfect, but it is certainly better than majority rule. Many nations want to return to the two-thirds approach. That would by itself be more than enough to justify the U.S. breaking consensus on the final treaty text.

2. Should the ATT use the terms export and import (or trade), or should it use transfer? The first draft used the term transfer. This was changed in yesterday’s draft, in part at the urging of the U.S. delegation, because transfers could refer to the domestic sale of firearms. Many nations have urged a return to transfer, implying that, for them, the ATT is in part about domestic gun control. This should draw a U.S. rejection.

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