Weapons exports take a nosedive

An order of PC-21 training jets from the UAE gave weapons exports a major boost in 2011 and 2012 Flickr via Martin Wippel

Swiss weapons exports fell by 34% in 2013, a decline largely due to the end of a fighter plane export project to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). To boost the industry, the Swiss government is considering loosening laws on where weapons may be sent.

This content was published on February 28, 2014 - 13:57

Last year, CHF461.2 million ($520 million) in Swiss weapons materiel was sent to other countries, compared to about CHF700 million in 2012 according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

In the autumn of 2013, the Senate recommended implementing less stringent laws which would allow the weapons industry to export to countries with records of human rights abuses. Exports would be forbidden if there was a risk that the weapons would be used directly in abusing human rights.

The proposed legal revision was supported by cabinet but has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives.

Such a revision would not affect sales to the number one importer of Swiss weapons: Germany. In 2013, the Germans imported CHF123.5 million in weapons materiel, compared to twice that amount in 2012.

The weapons export numbers took a major hit after a major order from the UAE for PC-21 training fighter jets was filled; that project had inflated figures for 2011 and 2012.

Weapons exports to the UAE have been controversial: a scandal erupted in 2012, when Swiss-made grenades, originally exported to the UAE in 2003 and 2004, were discovered in the possession of Syrian rebels. They had been passed on to Jordan in 2004, and from there continued to Syria.

Other major importers of Swiss weapons include Italy, with CHF58.9 million worth in 2013; the United States, with CHF43.8 million; and Britain, with CHF38.1 million, says a SECO statement on Friday.

Voters threw out a 2009 initiative by a pacifist group to introduce an outright ban on weapons exports.

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