Statement by Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, at the "Arms Trade Treaty: Towards Entry into Force" High-Level Meeting, New York, September 25, 2013

Thomas M. Countryman
Assistant Secretary 
Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation 
New York, NY
September 25, 2013


Madam Chairman, it is a personal privilege for me to repeat to you, in an abridged form, the remarks that Secretary of State Kerry made when he signed the Arms Trade Treaty this morning.

On behalf of President Obama and the United States of America, I am pleased to sign the Arms Trade Treaty today. We signed it because we know from decades of effort that any time we work cooperatively to address the illicit international trade in conventional weapons, we make the world a safer place. This Treaty is a significant step in that effort.

Let’s be clear what this Treaty is and what it is not.

This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors. This is about reducing the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes. This is about keeping Americans safe and keeping the world safe. This is about promoting international peace and protecting global security. And this is about advancing important humanitarian goals.

But let’s also be clear about what this Treaty is not: this Treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom. In fact, the Treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legitimate purposes.

We would never support a Treaty that is inconsistent with the rights of American citizens guaranteed under our Constitution. This Treaty reaffirms the sovereign right of each country to decide for itself, consistent with its own constitutional and legal requirements, how to deal with conventional arms exclusively traded within its borders.

This Treaty helps lift countries up to higher standards – to create and enforce the kind of strict national export controls the United States already has in place. The kind of export controls that for decades have improved security, but have not diminished our ability to exercise our rights under the United States Constitution.

The bottom line: this Treaty strengthens security without undermining legitimate international trade in conventional arms, allowing each country to provide for its own self-defense.

I congratulate everyone who helped bring this agreement to fruition, including two talented conference presidents, our international partners and the civil society organizations whose commitment was vital to winning global support for this Treaty. The United States is proud to have worked with so many international partners to achieve this important step towards greater peace, security, and protection of human rights.

Thank you, Madam Chairman.


PRN: 2013/166