- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Trump administration made international arms deals worth a whopping $78.8 billion last year, a new study shows, with a dramatic increase in the number of licenses granted other nations to manufacture American weapons.

The sweeping new study from the Center for International Policy offers a window in the production and sale of American arms overseas, including to governments such as Saudi Arabia, which made arms agreements with the U.S. worth $4.5 billion. The top recipient of U.S. arms deals last year was Italy, which bought $11.4 billion in weapons. The U.K., Japan and Belgium each made arms deals worth between $6.6 billion and $7.3 billion, the study shows.

The sales include firearms, combat tanks and aircraft, ships, bombs, grenade launchers, and other weapons.

The 2018 overall figures are a 3.4 percent drop from the number of arms sales in 2017.

But researchers say last year’s numbers reveal a disturbing trend for the U.S.: a major uptick in the amount of American weapons produced overseas.

About $19.8 billion in U.S. arms sales last year — 25 percent of the total figure — came in the form of licenses doled out to other nations, which then manufactured the weapons themselves. That’s a roughly 50 percent increase over 2017 levels, the study says.

Critics argue that the figures undermine President Trump’s claim that U.S. arms production is a major job creator at home — an argument he made last year when defending sales to nations such as Saudi Arabia.

“Contrary to President Trump’s persistent claims that arms sales are a good job creator, an increasing percentage of export deals involve production of U.S. weapons overseas,” said report co-author William D. Hartung. “Often, when the U.S. exports arms, it is also exporting jobs.”

Arms sales account for roughly two-tenths of 1 percent of the U.S. labor force, the study shows.

What’s more important, the authors argued, is that the administration take steps to limit sales to Saudi Arabia and other nations accused of widespread human rights violations.

On the heels of the alleged murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, the Senate voted to end America’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The White House has threatened to veto that bill.

American weapons have been linked to civilian deaths in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia continues waging war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Echoing many American lawmakers, some specialists argue U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia — and other nations such as the Philippines, which is accused of killing thousands of civilians in an ongoing anti-drug campaign — should be reexamined.

“Given their use in major human rights abuses, firearms exports should be subjected to more scrutiny, not less,” said Christina Arabia, the director of the Security Assistance Monitor and the coauthor of the report.

The full study can be found by clicking here.

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