Top Arms Dealers In The World And Where Canada Fits In

- March 24th, 2011

The Economist, my favourite news magazine, has just published an interesting graphic showing the world´s top five national arms dealers and who their principal clients are.

The usual suspects turn up on both lists, pretty much, although the order of ranking was a bit of a surprise to me.

Here´s  a link to the online chart at economist.com.

The chart is based on data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (I don´t know the organization but I trust The Economist to use reliable sources).

It shows that, for the period 2006-2010, five countries supplied 75% of the world´s weaponry:

1. United States (30%)

2. Russia (23%)

3. Germany (11%)

4. France (7%)

5. Britain (4%)

Rest of the world: 25 %

 Positions 3, 4 and 5 surprised me a bit: Did you know that Germany is selling as many weapons and machines of war to the world as France and Britain combined? And I thought China was a bigger arms manufacturer than it appears to be.

What may surprise you more is what is not shown on that chart.

And that surprise is that Canada is No. 6 on the list of the world´s top arms dealers. Yes, we´re bigger than China when it comes to exporting things that help kill people our clients don´t like.

So, as far as the Economist chart is concerned, Canada is just part of the anonymous crush of “other” countries like Israel, Iran, Brazil and Poland that make up the other 25% of world weapons production and sales.

In actual fact, we are next in line after the big boys and well ahead of all those other “also-ran” merchants of death. We´re in the killer elite.

That No. 6 ranking comes from a very reputable source, the U.S. Congressional Research Service, which keeps better (public) track of these things than the Canadian government does.

The Canadian government (should I be saying “Harper government” here? I don´t think so, since both Liberal and Conservative administrations were in office during the time period we´re covering), is supposed to release an annual report on Exports Of Military Goods From Canada. It doesn´t. Under pressure, it comes up with irregular reports.

The most recent, released earlier this month, covered the 2007-09 period. The previous report, released in 2007, covered 2000-06.

According to those two reports, Canadian manufacturers exported about $5 billion worth of military arms, equipment and technology to other countries in that 2000-09 decade.

Except that´s not an accurate figure: By bilateral agreement, Canada does not include its arms sales to the United States in that export total. And the U.S. is BY FAR Canada´s biggest market for military exports.

I have not been able to nail down the exact numbers, but what I´m seeing in the U.S. Congressional Research Service data would lead me to believe that, in the past decade, Canada has shipped to the U.S. about $7.7 billion worth of military hardware and software — everything from our much-maligned armoured vehicles to aircraft guidance systems and, yes, ammo and missiles.

We, of course, buy a lot of military equipment from other countries — mainly the U.S., but also Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Israel,  Mexico, Norway and on and on– so there´s outgo as well as that (maybe) $12.7 billion income. But we still have a very healthy military trade surplus.

We are seeing a shift in what other countries are buying from us. Back around 2000 it used to be mainly land vehicles and aircraft. Nowadays, we´re selling the world far more component parts and high-tech military software. But we still do a pretty fair trade in the stuff that goes boom and bang.

Our principal clients in recent years (apart from the U.S. main market) have been Britain, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

But other buyers of Canadian military goods over the past decade also include:

Libya (surprise, surprise), Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Pakistan, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia (among others). I don´t think we´ve sold anything dangerous to Iran or North Korea — at least not in any documented form.

It´s a big, bad, dangerous world out there. And, if Canada is not really making it a better and safer place to live (the jury´s still out on our efforts in that regard), at least our economy is sharing in the gazillions of dollars spent annually to slaughter, maim, brutalize and suppress each other.

Are the Action Plan TV ads taking credit for that too?

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14 comments

  1. stat_checker says:

    I think you’re mixing apples and oranges here.

    According to the SIPRI report Netherlands, Italy, Spain, China and Sweden round out the top ten, not Canada. If the other report states Canada is in 6th place that’s most likely using a different ranking system and not comparable to the SIPRI rankings.

    Your overall point may still be valid but the background information is misleading.

  2. alan.parker says:

    Hi stat_checker.

    Or maybe SIPRI is not including the huge off-the-books arms trade between Canada and the United States, information the Congressional researchers would have access to and would build into their analysis and ranking.

  3. stat_checker says:

    Then they probably didn’t include items like that for other countries as well.

    Canada rates #14 according to SIPRI.

  4. alan.parker says:

    Nope, the cosy Canada-U.S. zipped-lip deal is one-of-a-kind.
    A.

  5. Allan says:

    What is an arms, is it a gun, bullet, plane, tank or is it the metal used to make the weapon, or a part used in the item that would make us the arms dealer?. What would be interesting is to see a listing of the items that each nation supplies that makes that nation an arms dealer.

  6. Calvin says:

    Well that’s convenient, when your argument is questioned you point to mysterious “off the books” sales. The simple fact is that where Canada does export defence material it is in the form of jet and turboprop engines, airframes for surveillance systems, and guidance systems for “smart” weaponry designed to minimize collateral damage, aka innocent civilians. To imply that Canada is in the same league as the irresponsible Russians and Chinese, who will sell just about anything to just about anyone, is ludicrous. No Canadian weapons are found in the hands of the Taliban or Somali pirates and warlords. And your list ranks exporters by the value of their exports, so of course China doesn’t appear. A Canada-made jet engine or a German tank sells for a heck of a lot more than their Chinese counterparts. That doesn’t mean China isn’t selling jet fighters to Pakistan or missiles to Iran as fast as it can build them. In summary, your claim is intellectually dishonest and ignores “inconvenient truths” that show you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

  7. PaulinAB says:

    “our much-maligned armoured vehicles “? They are world class. You don’t have to like the quantity we export, but you can’t deny the quality.

  8. Jeff says:

    I think most Canadians would agree that 6th or 14th, it’s a lot higher than a so-called peaceful country should be.

  9. Glen says:

    So what if Canada is #6. We are an exporting country and the arms industry in this country is a high paying employer that brings in lots of money in foreign currencies. Of course the lefties out there think this is terrible and we should export rifles with flowers growing in them, but remember all the taxes paid, health care supplied and so on that comes from these sales. Grow up and get over it.

  10. Rory says:

    For somebody wishing to “shed light” on the arms dealers of the world, it would probably be a lot more valid if you
    a) categorized the actual percentage of sales that Canada has and
    b) categorize to whom we sell these “arms” to and
    c) categorize WHAT we actually sell.

    Real information, not just blithely writing smoke screen articles that tell nobody anything and serve only to get get people’s panties in knots. You are doing a disservice to everyone who reads your wacko articles.
    Stats never lie but LIARS can always quote useless stats to back their meaningless opinions.

  11. Jim says:

    Like it or not , arms will always be a good business worldwide.
    If there is an opportunity for Canadians to get a larger share of this market then all the better.

  12. Jolo5309 says:

    Your reputable source seems to be wrong, according to the report to the Congressional Research Service released September 10th, 2010, Table 38 shows Canada at 6,700 million dollars, good enough for 8th on the chart. We are behind the usual suspects, China plus Israel round out the ones before us.

    Now the real issue is, why is Canada’s gross sales rising in the last 4 years, from 2002-2006 Canada sold 2,900 million in arms, from 2007-2009, Canada sold 3,800 million

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R41403.pdf

  13. Jack says:

    I think your article is a little slanted. Yes Canada and the US may sell more $ worth of arms, but don’t forget that the cost difference between an AK-47 (the most widely used assault rifle in the world) which can be bought in a third world country for $100 to something like an M16 or similar assault rifle is incredibility disparate at $1,000+, and to quote a CBC article on March 4th, Canada’s trade to Libya was around $90,000. We aren’t exactly supplying them with the fighter jets to bomb their citizens. I have well-to-do friends who go pheasant hunting who have shotguns in the range of $15,000 – $20,000. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Gaddafi had it all locked up in a palace he’s never been to, especially since he has millions to burn on hiring famous entertainers. One other thing worth mentioning is that these countries have a right to defend themselves.

    According to Industries Canada, we have in fact sold an arm or arms to Iran, a whole $15,000 worth that is probably being used to kill hundreds of thousands of their own citizens at this very moment.

    No, I think it’s perfectly okay to wish for a better world without war and violence, but you have to be realistic. These countries not only need to defend themselves from invading forces, but from themselves as well. It doesn’t make sense to have a militia who happened to be formed by terrorists hindsight 20/20 just like it doesn’t make sense to have an army composed of homicidal maniacs. Guns have already been an intricate part of this world for hundreds of years.

    Your dollar will be spent on killing people no matter what you buy. I assume after finding out that Tim Hortons imports beans from Columbia I can expect you to write an article on why we should all boycott all things Tim Hortons?

  14. Esmaeil Heravi says:

    A killer or a peace maker?

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