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Swedish arms exports topped 11 billion kronor last year

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Swedish arms exports topped 11 billion kronor last year
File photo of a JAS Gripen fighter jet. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT
14:12 CET+01:00
Swedish military exports rose by 2 percent last year, inflated by the sale of fighter jets to Brazil. But critics say the most worrying trend is that Sweden continues to sell to non-democratic states.

Swedish exports of military equipment came to a total of 11.3 billion kronor ($1.38 billion) in 2017, up 2 percent from the year before, a new report from the Swedish Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP) shows.

More than 80 percent of the 11.3 billion kronor came from sales to other EU or EEA countries, Canada, South Korea, the US and Brazil, with Brazil, India and the US the top three countries.

The number was heavily boosted by Saab's recent sale of JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets to Brazil, a deal which will likely help the tiny Nordic nation keep its place as the world's 10-12th top arms exporter.

But according to the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), the numbers are no way near as problematic as some of the other countries on the list of clients, which includes for example the United Arab Emirates (141 million kronor) and Saudi Arabia (7 million kronor).

With UAE's support, Saudi Arabia is currently leading air strikes on Yemen which the United Nations recently described as the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe right now.  

"These are countries that are notorious for violating human rights," SPAS spokesperson Linda Åkerström told The Local, adding that one of the biggest surprises in reading the report was the fact that Sweden has just added the Philippines to its list of export clients.

Since Rodrigo Duterte took office as the country's president in 2016, thousands of people have been killed in a nationwide crackdown he claims is a "war on drugs".   

"This is someone who compares himself with Hitler," Åkerström said.

On Wednesday, Swedish lawmakers are expected to approve a 2011 law proposal which is supposed to tighten the rules for arms and war material exports to non-democratic countries or states that violate human rights. But according to SPAS, there is plenty of space for pro-arms exporters to interpret the law in their favour.

"It needs clarity. The way it reads now it can be interpreted either way, meaning that either the rules are tightened, or Sweden just continues [its arms exports] the way it always has," Åkerström said.

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