WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) – The United States consolidated its domination of a shrinking global arms market in 2010, signing $21.3 billion in new weapons orders with foreign countries, according to the latest edition of an annual report on conventional weapons transfers by the Congressional Research Service.

Washington’s total actually marked a slight decline in orders from 2009. But, because total global arms sales last year fell sharply–nearly 40 percent–from their 2009 level of $65 billion, the U.S. market share rose steeply, from 35 percent in 2009 to nearly 53 percent in 2010.

The U.S. also ranked first in the value of actual arms deliveries in 2010, supplying foreign clients with some $12 billion worth of weapons, or more than a third of the $35 billion in global arms deliveries last year, according to the report. It was the eighth year in a row that Washington led the world in global arms deliveries.


As in previous years, developing countries were the biggest buyers on the international arms market in 2010, accounting for 76 percent of all new arms agreements and nearly 63 percent of actual deliveries, according to the 75-page report, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2003-2010”.

Among developing countries, India topped the list of buyers, concluding nearly $6 billion in new deals. It was followed by Taiwan ($2.7 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($2.2 billion).

India also topped the list as the leading recipient of arms deliveries, having obtained $3.6 billion worth of weapons systems. It was followed by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which both received $2.2 billion worth of arms shipments, according to the report.

For the entire 2003-2010 period, however, the report found that Saudi Arabia was the developing world’s top recipient of arms shipments by far, having received some $29 billion worth of weapons, followed by India, at nearly $17 billion; China ($13.2 billion); Egypt ($12.1 billion), and Israel ($10.3 billion).

As in previous reports, the latest edition distinguishes between arms agreements that were signed during the previous year and actual arms deliveries. Actual deliveries often fall short of what agreements may originally have called for.

The latest report comes as defense budgets in most developed countries, especially in Europe, are undergoing substantial cuts in reaction to the ongoing financial crisis. Even the Pentagon, whose budget nearly doubled over the past decade, faces the prospect of little or no growth in real terms over the next 10 years.

As a result, major U.S. and European defense contractors are looking to boost sales in foreign markets, particularly in the wealthy markets of Near Eastern oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, India, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

Moreover, because of persistent high unemployment rates in the major Western exporters, including the U.S., the main motivation for selling weapons to foreign clients “may be based as much, if not more, on economic considerations as those of foreign or national security policy,” according to arms market analyst Richard Grimmett.

The value of all arms agreements with developing countries came to $30.7 billion in 2010, a major decrease from the nearly $50 billion in deals signed in 2009 and the lowest total since 2003. The nearly $22 billion worth of arms actually delivered to developing countries last year, on the other hand, was the highest since 2006.

The U.S. accounted for 49 percent of all new weapons orders from developing countries last year–a major increase from its 31 percent share in 2009. It was followed by Russia, which maintained its 25 percent share of the developing-country market in 2010; and by the major Western European arms manufacturers, led by Italy, France, and Britain, which held a 13 percent share last year, down from 24 percent in 2009.

In actual arms deliveries to developing countries, however, Washington has dominated the past eight years, with about $60 billion worth of transfers, compared to Russia’s $38 billion. Britain ($19 billion), France ($12.3 billion), China ($11.6 billion), Germany ($6.2 billion), and Israel ($3.5 billion) were the other top suppliers.

Over the same eight-year period, Saudi Arabia was the top buyer, signing $44.3 billion in new arms deals, followed by India ($38.1 billion), the UAE ($18.7 billion), Egypt ($14.4 billion), Pakistan ($13 billion), Venezuela ($12.7 billion), South Korea ($10 billion), and Brazil ($9.8 billion). Saudi Arabia last year agreed in principle to buy some $60 billion in U.S.-manufactured aircraft in the coming years.

As for actual arms deliveries since 2003, Saudi Arabia again topped the list, receiving some $29 billion worth of weapons.