The Harper government wants to widen the list of Canadians arms customers in order to offset decreasing demand in “traditional markets” such as the United States and Britain (Lee Berthiaume, “Federal government looks to developing countries to bolster arms sales,” Postmedia News, 6 January 2014):
The end of Canadian combat operations in Afghanistan and deep cuts to defence budgets in the United States and other allied nations are driving the federal government to look to developing countries as potential buyers of Canadian-made guns and military equipment.
The past few years have seen the government add Colombia to a list of countries to which Canadian defence companies and others can sell military weapons and equipment, and look to add a number of others such as India, Kuwait, Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea as well.
Yet while many have believed the move toward selling military goods to developing countries, some with questionable human rights records, was intended to expand Canada’s share of the global arms trade, it appears the real reason is to help the $12-billion industry through tough times.
A secret briefing note presented to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in June says the plan to add Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List was a direct response to reduced demand for Canadian-made weapons in “traditional markets” such as the U.S. and Britain.
“This request comes after the conclusion of Canada’s combat role in the NATO-led mission to Afghanistan, and when demand from traditional markets for defence products has significantly decreased, forcing the Canadian defence industry to look for new market opportunities,” reads the document, obtained by Postmedia News.
Canadian arms sales to customers in regions of conflict or with poor human rights records have been on the increase in recent years.
Steve Staples, president of the Rideau Institute, questions the moral and economic justification of the arms sales effort:
“Rather than helping companies chase arms deals from questionable customers, the government should be helping these companies refocus their business away from declining defence markets toward more promising commercial markets,” he said.
Previously on Ceasefire.ca: Steve makes the case for why Canada doesn’t need a defence industry.
Photo credit: UK Ministry of Defence