Arms Trade Offsets and Development
Offsets, arrangements that obligate the arms seller to reinvest (“offset”) arms sales proceeds in the purchasing country, are an increasingly important facet of the international trade in arms. They are used to justify spending on imports by promises that there will be significant benefits to the economy, through the promotion and development of local industry, technology and employment. Until recently, however, there has been little research on how well offsets work in practice. This paper is a ‘state-of-the-art’ review of our empirical knowledge regarding arms trade offsets. We find virtually no case where offset arrangements have yielded unambiguous net benefits for a country’s economic development. As a general rule arms trade offset deals are more costly than ‘off-the-shelf’ arms purchases, create little by way of new or sustainable employment, do not appear to contribute in any substantive way to general economic development, and with very few exceptions do not result in significant technology transfers, not even within the military sector.
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