August 20, 2015 / 12:36 AM / 5 years ago

Arms trade treaty faces transparency hurdle at Mexico meeting

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Efforts to impose transparency on the global arms trade at a pivotal meeting in Mexico next week face resistance from some major European exporters that could undermine a historic accord, arms control groups said on Wednesday.

Officials from over 100 governments are expected to attend the first conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a pact to regulate the trade that took force in December but has yet to agree fine print on how it will be implemented.

Due to run from Aug, 24-27 in the Mexican resort of Cancun, signatories are hoping to set out rules of procedure for the ATT and discuss the financing of a secretariat that will oversee efforts to police the multi-billion dollar business.

One contentious point at the heart of talks will be how much transparency countries permit over publishing arms sales, said Anna Macdonald, director of Control Arms, a lobby group.

“One of the problems with discussions on transparency is that even they are not transparent,” she told a news conference in Mexico City, noting the secretive nature of talks on sales made it hard to pinpoint which nations were most reluctant.

“However, we think it’s mostly among major European exporters that this view is being put forward at the moment, and we’re very concerned about it, because the treaty itself, we believe, recommends transparency,” she added.

Macdonald said France had been notably resistant and she also expressed disappointment with the stance so far taken by Sweden and Italy on the need to shed light on the sales.

Paulina Arriaga Carrasco, director of lobby group Desarma Mexico (Disarm Mexico), argued the Cancun meeting needed to overcome the resistance to making the information public.

“If it’s just transparency between the countries, it’s not going to achieve much,” she said.

In contrast to those still hesitant, the likes of Norway, Lithuania, Denmark and Austria, have spoken in favour of transparency, as had the United States - although it has yet to ratify the treaty, said Macdonald of Control Arms.

The United States is one of around 130 countries to sign the ATT, but only 72 have ratified it to date.

Julian Cruzalta of Mexican church group Iglesias por la paz (Churches for peace), urged other nations attending the Cancun talks to push the United States into taking the next step, saying the country was a “master of not ratifying treaties.”

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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