Update 18:05 Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Switzerland in 2010 exported CHF640.5 million in “war materials” to 69 countries, down 12 percent from the previous year (CHF727.7m), compared to overall Swiss export, which rose by 8 percent, Bern announced Tuesday 22 February.
Arms exports accounted last year for less than half a percent of the country’s exports, 0.32 percent but with governments in several Arab nations using arms against their own citizens, observers in Switzerland are likely to look more closely this year at the details of Swiss arms exports.
Bern is putting the accent on transparency, pointing out that it remains high on the annual barometer for transparency established by the Small Arms Survey, which is attached to Geneva’s Graduate Institute. Small arms and light weapons account for only about CHF24 million of the total CHF640.5m arms exported by Switzerland last year, however. They fall under legislation covering arms and war materials.
Change in Swiss arms exports, 1983-2010 (source, Seco)
Air defense system sold to Saudi Arabia in 2006 covered 2010 delivery
One of the largest arms exports in 2010 was to Saudi Arabia, a partial delivery of an air defense system worth CHF132.6, which Bern is quick to point out was authorized in 2006.
Three countries, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are covered by new exports regulations put in place in the spring of 2009 that no longer permit new authorizations for arms exports to these countries.
Tables for arms exports from Switzerland since 1983 show a sharp increase in sales in recent years, nearly tripling from 2005 to 2009. Amounts for large weapons materials, such as tanks and defense systems can vary sharply, points out a member of the staff at the Small Arms Survey in Geneva, if sales are made to a country that is refurbishing part of its system.
Switzerland’s three largest deliveries were the air defense system to Saudi Arabia followed by tanks to Germany and Belgium, worth CHF86.1m and 42.6m respectively.
The five largest buyers of Swiss arms in 2010 were: Germany, CHF134.3m, Saudia Arabia, CHF132.6m, Great Britain, CHF51.1m, Belgium, CHF44.8m and Spain, 32.6m.
Swiss arms exports in global context
The Swedish group Sipri (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), which compiles an annual arms trade report for the Swedish government, provides some of the most recent figures for world trade in arms. It shows Switzerland in 2006 with arms exports as 0.7 percent of global arms exports, according to Simon Plüss of the war materials export control office in Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. The Congressional Research Service in the US tracks arms trade with developing countries, and it shows, for 2006, that only 15 percent of Swiss arms exports went to developing countries, compared to an average of 73.6 percent for global arms exports.
This figure in theory should be lower now, points out Plüss, because in 2008 the Swiss government banned exports to the world’s poorest countries. Since then Swiss export licenses to the 50 least developed countries, figuring on the current OECD-DAC list of countries receiving development aid, cannot be granted. In reality, Switzerland was selling few arms to these countries to begin with, but among the nations that received arms earlier in the first decade of the century, those who no longer are include Morocco, Oman, Turkey, Botswana, Bulgaria and Chad.