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Lobbying: Global arms trade
SRAY AGARWAL | Issue Dated: October 16, 2010, New Delhi
Tags : Lobbying | BAE Systems | the US | Boeing |

The whole business of arms trade is no more a scoop. Names like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Dassault Aviation, Finmeccanica, Boeing, Rosoboronexport and Northrop Grumman feature prominently in the list of arms traders. Going by the conservative estimations, the global arms trade market is worth over $50 billion annually, out of which the US controls around 40 per cent. However, given the recent economic meltdown, the arms sale saw a fall of 8.5 per cent and the US share dropped to $22.6 billion. But then, it was not tough for these countries and companies to find clients, in spite of the global economic problems. Most of the arms are pushed to those countries who top the chart when it comes to poverty and political instability. Even a country like Iraq, which is still trying to stand up, has announced its plans to purchase arms worth $13 billion from the US; juxtapose this with the country’s GDP of $84.7 billion (2008).
What may be interesting is the way these companies pushed the arms to conflict zones and especially to the US allies through lobbying with the US government. But what is more interesting is the way these companies use their profits. As per the lobbying disclosure report released in 2009, Northrop Grumman (in 2008) doubled its lobbying budget to $20.6 million; Boeing increased it to $16.6 million (up from $10 million) and Lockheed-Martin (the front runner when it comes to contracts from the Pentagon) hiked its lobbying budget by a monstrous 54 per cent. So much so that the excessive lobbying made the US government ignore the whole idea of closing F-22 production, which, as per defence experts, will be of no use to the US in any possible war in future. Moreover, the government was actually worried about those 95,000 employees, working in the plant after the closure – especially at a time where Obama’s government is leaving no stone unturned to improve the employment statistics.
The plants are so strategically located that in case of plans by the government to close down production facilities, these companies can urge the local Congress member to resist and defend. On the same lines, Northrop Grumman took the help of 383 congressional districts to save its B-2 Stealth bomber plant. Most of these companies blackmail the government in the name of job loss and local unemployment that would eventually effect the US economy. On the contrary, various studies show that increase in the military expenditure has an inverse effect not only on the economy but also on employment. These companies are trying to keep their production facilities running at the cost of development in Third World countries. Firstly, these companies push inferior products to conflict zones and poor countries. Secondly, they use profits for lobbying with client countries. Thirdly, they lobby even with domestic governments so that they can keep their plants running. In spite of efforts by several NGOs, the UN arms trade treaty has still not been enforced. Arms trade not only dents the economy of the host country but fuel the conflicts across the world. In 2012, during the UN conference on arm trade, one hopes that the US would back the treaty, if not for the world, then at least for its own economy. After all, unaccountable global arms trade can only endanger the whole globe.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017