UNITED NATIONS – More than 60 countries have signed a landmark conventional arms trade treaty, but the United States held back from joining the first wave of signatories while Russia and China are expected to stay out of the accord.
The UN-brokered treaty is the first covering weapons of any kind for more than a decade and aims to bring transparency and protection of human rights into the often dubious US$85 billion-a-year global trade.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday the treaty will "put an end to the 'free-for-all' nature" of weapons dealing and make it harder for warlords, pirates and terrorists to get arms".
The treaty covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, as well as the vast trade in small arms.
Countries that ratify the treaty would have to evaluate before making a deal whether it risks breaching an international embargo, violates human rights law, or could be used by terrorists or criminals.
The opening of signatures was described as an "extremely important milestone" by ministers and other representatives of Argentina, Australia, Britain, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and Kenya which sponsored the first 2006 UN resolution calling for treaty talks.
Argentina was the first of 63 countries to sign the treaty on the first day. Fifty ratifications are needed for the treaty to come into force. Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said this could be done within a year.
The UN General Assembly passed the treaty in April when 154 countries voted in favour, but Syria, North Korea and Iran voted against and Russia, China, Egypt and India were among 23 countries to abstain.
Russia and China are not expected to join the treaty any time soon.
Among major arms exporters, Britain, France and Germany all signed the treaty on the first day.AFP