SIPRI: USA Largest Arms Supplier, Saudi Arabia Biggest Importer

According to new data on global arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in between 2016-2020 the United States remains the largest arms exporter accounting for 37% of global arms sales, and  Saudi Arabia the world’s largest arms importer with 11% of the shares of major arms importers.

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SIPRI has identified 65 states as exporters of major arms in 2016–20. The five largest arms exporters in 2016–20 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany, and China. Together, they accounted for 76% of
all exports of major arms in 2016–20.

US arms exports in 2016–20 accounted for 37% of the global total and were 15% higher than in 2011–15. Russian arms exports decreased by 22% between 2011–15 and 2016–20. Between 2011–15 and 2016–20 arms exports by France and Germany increased by 44% and 21%, respectively, whereas
those of China decreased by 7.8 %.


SIPRI has identified 164 states as importers of major arms in 2016–20.
The top five arms importers—Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and
China—received 36% of total arms imports in 2016–20. Of these five, only Egypt was not among the top five importers in 2011–15. At the regional level, Asia and Oceania accounted for 42% of arms imports in 2016–20, followed by the Middle East (33%), Europe (12%), Africa (7.3 %), and the Americas (5.4%).

The drop in arms transfers in 2020

SIPRI found that the value of global arms transfers in 2020 was exceptionally low—16 per cent lower than in 2019 and 20 per cent below the annual average in 2011–19. This might be partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic—which disrupted some arms companies’ planned production and delivery schedules—and the related economic crisis.

However, the drop in arms transfers in 2020 was also related to other supply- and demand-side factors, including national procurement cycles, gaps in deliveries during shifting relations between suppliers and recipients, and nonpandemic-related economic conditions. The uncertainty about whether the pandemic was a major cause for the fall in arms transfers in 2020 is highlighted, for instance, by the fact that several states actually had higher levels of arms deliveries in 2020 than in some other years in the period 2011–19. For example, US arms exports in 2020 were higher than they were in three years in 2011–19 and French arms exports in 2020 were higher than in five years in the same period. Similarly, on the recipient side, arms deliveries to Australia in 2020 were higher than in any year in 2011–19.

Download the full report here.

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