NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Asian Crisis Dented Arms Sales

August 6, 1999

Worldwide arms sales last year were far below the levels of the early 1990s. But the U.S. exported the lion's share compared to other manufacturing countries. Analysts say declines in sales during 1997 and 1998 were mainly due to the economic crises in Southeast Asian countries and weak economies in the oil-producing states of the Middle East.

  • A new Congressional Research Service report shows that the U.S. negotiated new agreements to sell $7.1 billion worth of weapons in 1998 -- nearly 31 percent of the $23 billion in sales worldwide.
  • The U.S. also led the world in delivering arms ordered in previous years -- making $7.8 billion worth of deliveries in 1998.
  • Germany chalked up $5.5 billion in sales last year and France had $3 billion in new sales.
  • Russia -- which four years ago briefly knocked the U.S. out of the top spot as world arms merchant -- sold only $1.7 billion in arms, compared to $3.3 billion in 1997 and $5.3 billion in 1996

Overall the world market was sluggish and sales to developing countries hit their lowest levels since 1991. Nevertheless, U.S. sales to the developing world -- defined as those countries outside Europe and excluding Russia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand -- reached $4.6 billion, up from $2.6 billion the year before.

Figures for sales globally increased slightly last year over 1997.

The report said that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest arms buyer, was struggling to keep up with purchases made earlier in the decade and "has even had problems meeting its monthly payments" for existing contracts.

Source: Steven Lee Myers, "Arms Sales Sink Globally but the U.S. Still Leads," New York Times, August 6, 1999.


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