After negotiations broke down in July, the 193 UN members again attempted to hammer out an accord that could control weapons sales.
The US remained the world’s top arms exporter during the 2008-2012 period, with 30 per cent of the global volume.
Russia was second with 26 per cent, Germany third with 7 per cent and France fourth with 6 per cent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said yesterday.
China moved into the top five arms dealers for the first time last year, taking 5 per cent of the world’s trade, according to Sipri.
The major arms producers and buyers have fought to chip away at or exclude whole categories from the treaty.
The US refuses to include ammunition – it sells $2.6 billon (£1.7bn) worth each year.
China wants to protect its small arms trade and Russia opposes including transfers of arms to allies.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon called for a treaty that included ammunition.
“It is our collective responsibility to put an end to inadequate regulation of the trade – from small arms to tanks to combat aircraft,” he said.
Eighteen Nobel peace prize winners, including former US president Jimmy Carter and South African campaigner Desmond Tutu, sent a letter to US President Barack Obama insisting that he had a “moral duty” to seek a strong treaty.
Lobby groups have criticised the existing draft, which does not include ammunition, spare parts and components, arms intended for police use, drones or military helicopters.
Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty urged action, pointing to conflicts in Syria, Mali and elsewhere “where the world bore witness to the horrific human cost of a reckless global arms trade steeped in secrecy.”
“It shouldn’t take millions more dying and lives destroyed before leaders show some backbone and take action to effectively control international arms transfers.”
Amnesty says the five permanent security council members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – account for over half of global sales of conventional arms.