Conference for Control of the International Traffic in Arms

April 27, 1925

Report Outline
History of Efforts to Control Arms Traffic
Final Text of the Draft Convention

On May 5 a conference will be held at Geneva under the auspices of the League of Nations to consider a draft convention drawn up by the Temporary Mixed Commission of the League for the purpose of establishing a system of control over the international traffic in arms, munitions and implements of war. The conference, which will be attended by an American delegation appointed by the President, will concern itself especially with the problem of controlling the exportation of arms to countries inhabited either by backward peoples or by peoples addicted to civil warfare. It is proposed in general to control the traffic in arms through a system of government licenses to be issued for all arms and war material leaving each exporting country. It is further proposed that these licenses shall be made public through a central office to be established under the League of Nations. The American delegation will set forth the reasons which have prevented the United States from adhering to the Arms Traffic Convention of St. Germain, the failure of which is responsible for the present conference.

Problems of the Conference

The conference, in addition to the technical difficulties which confront it, will be faced by two problems of fundamental importance. The first is the reluctance of non-members of the League of nations, including the United States, to associate themselves formally and permanently with any organization created by or under the influence of the League. The importance of this first difficulty has recently been emphasized by the refusal of Russia to attend on account of her expressed dislike and distrust of the League.

The second problem is the difficulty of defining the areas into which the exportation of arms shall be especially prohibited. This is a matter on which it will be very difficult to obtain agreement. It has already been the subject of long discussion. There is here the double difficulty of satisfying the ideas of the exporting countries and also of allowing for the feelings of the people in the countries which it is proposed to include in the prohibited areas. For instance, it is believed that the United States may declare itself in favor of the inclusion of China In the prohibited zones, inasmuch as the United States government has Itself placed an embargo on the exportation of arms to China on account of the frequent civil wars which have taken place there in recent years. China, on the other hand would vigorously protest against any such action and would conceivably receive support from other countries. Persia and Abyssinia, for example, have strongly resented their inclusion In a tentative list of prohibited areas.

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Apr. 27, 1925  Conference for Control of the International Traffic in Arms
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