Opinion Number. 1402

Subject

INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ARMS WHETHER EXPORT OF ARMS, AMMUNITION OR EXPLOSIVES TO NEW ZEALAND WOULD BE REGARDED AS ‘INTERNATIONAL’ TRADE FOR PURPOSES OF GENEVA CONVENTION: WHETHER COMMONWEALTH BOUND TO REPORT SUCH TRANSACTIONS

Key Legislation

CONVENTION FOR THE SUPERVISION OF THE INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ARMS AND MUNITIONS AND IN IMPLEMENTS OF WAR Preamble, art 6

Date
Client
The Secretary, Prime Minister

The Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department, has forwarded the following memorandum for advice:

With reference to the Convention for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Munitions and in Implements of War, signed at Geneva, June 17th 1925, I desire to bring to your notice the following question which has been raised by the Defence Department.

It is assumed that the export of arms, ammunition or explosives to New Zealand would not be regarded as ‘international’ and reportable to the League, but a decision on this point as well as on the general question of the export of such material to British countries would be appreciated.

I shall be glad to receive an opinion in this connection and forward copy of the Convention and of the report of the proceedings of the Conference at which it was drawn up. It is desired that these documents be returned in due course.

The Preamble to the Convention states that the international trade in arms and ammunition and in implements of war should be subjected to a general and effective system of supervision and publicity, and this may, I think, be taken as the main object of the Convention. The Convention establishes five categories of arms, ammunition and implements, and lays down various conditions to be observed by the High Contracting Parties in regard to the export of the articles covered by the different categories. For instance, except in certain specified cases, articles in Category I can only be exported to a Government or to a public authority subordinate to a Government, and in all cases an order issued by, or endorsed by, the importing Government must be presented to the authorities of the exporting country, and a licence to export obtained from the Government of that country.

Article 6 of the Convention reads as follows:

As a preliminary to a general system of publicity for armaments irrespective of their origin, the High Contracting Parties undertake to publish, within two months of the close of each quarter, a statistical return of their foreign trade during this quarter in the articles covered by Categories I and II. This return shall be drawn up in accordance with the specimen forms contained in Annex I to the present Convention and shall show under each heading appearing in Categories I and II in Article 1 the value and the weight or number of the articles exported or imported under a licence or export declaration, allocated according to country of origin or destination.

In all cases where the consignment comes from, or is sent to, a territory possessing an autonomous Customs system, such territory shall be shown as the country of origin or destination.

The High Contracting Parties further undertake, so far as each may be concerned, to publish within the same time-limits a return containing the same information in respect of the consignments of articles covered by Categories I and II to other territories placed under their sovereignty, jurisdiction, protection or tutelage, or under the same sovereignty, jurisdiction, protection or tutelage.

The first statistical return to be published by each of the High Contracting Parties shall be for the quarter beginning on the first day of January, April, July or October, subsequent to the date on which the present Convention comes into forces with regard to the High Contracting Party concerned.

The High Contracting Parties undertake to publish as an annex to the above-mentioned return the text of the provisions of all statutes, orders or regulations in force within their territory dealing with the export and import of articles covered by Article 1, and to include therein all provisions enacted for the purpose of carrying out the present Convention. Amendments and additions to these provisions shall be likewise published in annexes to subsequent quarterly returns.

The Delegate of the British Empire, when signing the Convention, made the following declaration:

I declare that my signature does not bind India or any British Dominion which is a separate Member of the League of Nations and does not separately sign or adhere to the Convention.

The Convention has not been signed on behalf of the Commonwealth, but I understand that it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall adhere to it.

I do not think trade between Australia and New Zealand would be foreign trade within the meaning of the first paragraph of Article 6. I think, however, that in view of the provisions of the concluding words of the third paragraph of Article 6, the Commonwealth will be bound, if it adheres to the Convention, to include in its quarterly reports particulars of the articles covered by Categories I and II which are exported to New Zealand and other British Dominions.

[Vol. 22, p. 790]