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Switzerland contributes to global arms trade boom

Switzerland is in the process of beefing up its air defence systems. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Global military expenditure hit record levels last year, with governments shelling out nearly $2 trillion (CHF1.8 trillion). Switzerland was the 14th biggest exporter of weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

This content was published on April 26, 2021 - 11:06
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Swiss companies exported war materiel worth CHF901.2 million ($965 million) to 62 countries in 2020, up 24% from the previous year. This represents 0.7% of all official military equipment exports globally, SIPRI announced on MondayExternal link.

The United States accounted for 39% of all global military spending. The US, China, India, Russia and Britain together were responsible for 62% of the total expenditure internationally, which increased 2.6% last year from 2019.

Swiss defence expenditure was nearly CHF6 billion in 2019, according to the latest official figures. This represented 2.5% of the country’s total economic output (gross domestic product - GDP).

On average, countries around the world spent 2.4% of their GDP on weaponry last year, up from 2.2% in 2019, according to SIPRI.

Efforts to curb the war materiel industry in Switzerland have so far failed to produce results at the ballot box. Last November, voters gunned down a popular initiative to ban the Swiss National Bank, pension funds and foundations, from holding shares or lending money to global companies which generate more than 5% of their annual sales from war materiel.

Swiss voters also overwhelmingly threw out an initiative seeking a ban on weapons exports in 2009. But another vote to anchor the rules for war materiel exports in the Swiss constitution could yet come to the vote in the near future.

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