• By The Financial District

Arms Sales Rise As COVID-19 Pandemic Rages, Study Affirms

Despite the global economy undergoing a 3.1-percent contraction in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, arms sales actually rose around the world during the same period, according to figures released on Monday, Steffen Trumpf reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

Photo Insert: A BAE weapons system

The world's 100 leading arms companies sold weapons and military services worth $531 billion in 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), marking a 1.3-percent increase in real terms on 2019 figures and representing the sixth consecutive year of growth.

The US continued to lead the world in both arms production and arms sales, with US weapons manufacturers accounting for 41 of the top 100 arms firms globally. Between them, their arms sales amounted to $285 billion in 2020 - a 1.9-percent year-on-year increase.

Geopolitical rival China, by contrast, had just five arms producers in the top 100 firms globally, despite its rapid militarization and massive investment in the sector. Nonetheless, its annual arms sales grew by 1.5 percent last year, taking in an estimated $66.8 billion in sales during 2020.

"In recent years, Chinese arms companies have benefited from the country's military modernization programs," said SIPRI researcher Nan Tian. "They have become some of the most advanced military technology producers in the world."

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Britain, the third-largest arms producer globally, saw a 6.2-percent rise in arms sales in 2020, bringing in a total of $37.5 billion, with sales by BAE Systems increasing by 6.6 percent alone.

"The industry giants were largely shielded by sustained government demand for military goods and services," said Alexandra Marksteiner, a researcher at SIPRI. "In much of the world, military spending grew and some governments even accelerated payments to the arms industry in order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis."

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One country did continue its downward trend in 2020, however: Russia marked its third consecutive year of decline in arms sales, from $28.2 billion in revenue in 2019 to $26.4 billion in 2020, a 6.5-percent fall.

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