LONDON – Defense budgets in the Asia-Pacific region will overtake the U.S. and Canada combined by 2021, according to a study by respected analysts published by IHS Jane’s.
Weapons spending in China and regional neighbors is expected to rise 35 percent above its 2013 level to $501 billion by 2021, outstripping North America, the Balance of Trade study concluded.
Overall, the global arms trade bucked the economic downturn to increase 30 percent between 2008 and 2012, from $56.5 billion to $73.5 billion. “At this rate, defense trade between countries will have more than doubled by 2020,” the study said.
The U.S. remained the world’s biggest exporter of weapons last year with $28.5 billion, up from $20.1 billion four years earlier. But India was the world’s biggest importer of arms, posting a giant leap of 70 percent since 2008, from $3.1 billion to $5.3 billion.
While spending in Asia rose, it fell back in Western Europe, where exports were sharply down — its 34.5 percent share of the export market in 2008 fell to 27.5 percent in 2012.
“Two things are happening. Budgets are shifting east and global arms trade is increasing competition,” said Paul Burton at IHS Jane’s. “This is the biggest explosion in trade the world has ever seen.”
China is reducing the amount of arms it imports as it improves its own production capabilities. But while China’s exports have doubled since 2008, it is being outpaced by South Korea, which leaped 688 percent, putting it into the global top 20 at $753 million.