Italy among world's top arms exporters

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Italy accounted for three percent of the share of international arms exports between 2010 and 2014. Tank photo: Shutterstock
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Italy is the eighth-largest exporter of major weapons in the world and is increasing its share of foreign sales, largely owing to the financial crisis, a military expenditure expert told The Local on Monday.

Italy accounted for three percent of the share of international arms exports between 2010 and 2014, up from two percent in the four preceding years, based on data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The increase puts the bel paese in the same league as Spain and Ukraine, but short of the UK’s four percent.

Along with China, France and Germany each account for five percent of global arms exports, although the two European nations have seen significant falls in trade, down from eight and 11 percent respectively.

Cold War foes still dominate the top of the table, with Russia accounting for 27 percent of global exports and the US leading with 31 percent.

The UAE and India are the biggest buyers of Italy’s major weapons, each accounting for nine percent of total exports. Turkey comes in a close third place, buying up eight percent of Italy’s arms exports.

Italy exported arms to 57 countries worldwide between 2010 and 2014, showing it does not focus its attention on one particular country or region. In the previous five years Italy’s biggest customers were Peru, Spain and Chile.

The reason exports by the Italian defence industry rose by 37 percent between the two periods is likely the result of the financial crisis, Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI’s military expenditure project, told The Local.

“To survive it’s had to export more; because Italy has been very badly affected by the global economic crisis, its military spending has fallen very significantly since 2009. Domestic orders have been much harder to get for the Italian industry,” he said.

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Spain has also seen a noticeable fall in domestic deals in recent years, owing to the economic downturn, Perlo-Freeman added. 

No EU country featured in the top ten of arms importers, with India purchasing 15 percent of the world’s share between 2010 and 2014. Saudi Arabia and China followed, with five percent apiece.

Overall, the SIPRI found European arms imports dropped by 36 percent, although the Institute warned the trend may be reversed due to the current situation in Russia and Ukraine, which has seen nations in eastern Europe increase their weapons arsenals.

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