The Congressional Research Service, in its annual report on weapons exports, says that America remains the number one arms salesman to the world. But most countries saw declining sales as developing countries - especially in Asia and the Middle East - hit budget problems and weapons exports fell to their lowest levels for almost a decade.
"Competition for available arms sales continues to intensify among major weapons suppliers," the report says. "The limited resources of most developing nations to expend on weapons, and the need of many selling nations to secure cash for their weapons, continues to place constraints on significant expansion of the arms trade."
America exported $7.12bn in arms last year, up from $5.7bn the year before but well below earlier levels. Germany ranked second, with $5.5bn in new sales, and France third, with $3bn. Russia sold only $1.7bn. Chinese sales of conventional weapons to developing nations fell to about $500m from $1.6bn in 1997.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia remained the biggest clients.