Global weapons sales rise for first time since 2010

Cheryl Sanders
December 11, 2017

In 2016 the world's 100 largest arms manufacturers sold $374.8bn of weapons and military services, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Although the researchers do not consider sales by Chinese companies due to lack of data, they note in the report that China's military spending "has increased nearly threefold between 2002 and 2016", and estimate that nine or 10 Chinese companies likely would be included in the top 100 list-with four to six in the top 20-if the data were publicly available. SIPRI said last year's increase in weapons sales was the first time a rise occurred after five consecutive years of decline. The number represents an increase of 38 percent since 2002.

Companies in western Europe who lead the pack in arms sales after United States companies remained stable in their growth, however sales for companies in France and Italy declined, and UK, Germany recorded overall increases.

The U.S. -allied nation increased its defense spending by 7 percent to almost $40 billion in next year's budget. The rise in arms sales around the world is also a response to smoldering conflicts, she adds.

"The growth in arms sales was expected and was driven by the implementation of new national major weapon programs, ongoing military operations in several countries and persistent regional tensions that are leading to an increased demand for weapons", the group said in its report.

Total arms sales by Western European companies remained stable at $91.6 billion in 2016.

But according to SIPRI expert Fleurant, the majority of weapons are sold by arms manufacturers to the defense ministries of their own countries, not overseas.

SIPRI said Japan's largest arms companies - including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. - experienced sharp falls a year ago.

Sales by Russian firms increased 3.8 per cent to $26.6 billion, a slower expansion than in recent years, CNN quoted the report as saying.

"The trends in arms sales are mixed: five companies recorded sales growth, while the other five showed decreases". Russian companies accounted for 7.1 per cent of the overall total. Besides the usual dominance by companies in USA and Europe, South Korea has emerged as the dark horse that is slowly cementing its position as one of the "established players" in global arms sales. But of course there are links: "There's a greater demand for certain types of weapon - munitions, missiles or ground vehicles, for example", says Aude Fleurant, Director of the Arms and Military Expenditure Program at SIPRI. "At the same time, South Korea is aiming to realize its goal of becoming a major arms exporter", said SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman.

On the other hand, Japan reported negative increase of -6.4 per cent. Japan is clubbed with Australia, Israel, Poland, Singapore and Ukraine under other established producers' category by the SIPRI.

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