By Roberta Rampton
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Friday announced at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting that the United States will drop out of an international arms treaty signed in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama but opposed by the NRA and other conservative groups.
Trump told members of the gun lobby that he intends to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory of the Arms Trade Treaty, which was never ratified by the U.S. Senate.
"We're taking our signature back," Trump said to thousands of cheering attendees, many wearing red hats emblazoned with the Republican president's "Make America Great Again" slogan.
The NRA has long opposed the treaty which regulates the $70 billion (£54.1 billion) business in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers. The lobbying group argues it would undermine domestic gun rights, a view the Obama administration rejected.
Trump added that the United Nations will soon receive formal notice of the withdrawal.
The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the treaty in April 2013 and the United States, the world's No. 1 arms exporter, voted in favour of it despite fierce opposition from the NRA.
Trump's action drew an immediate rebuke from some international human rights groups.
"The United States will now lock arms with Iran, North Korea and Syria as non-signatories to this historic treaty whose sole purpose is to protect innocent people from deadly weapons,” said Oxfam America President Abby Maxman.
Adotei Akwei, of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement: “With this announcement the Trump administration will re-open the floodgates for arms sales with weakened human rights criteria."
So far 101 countries have formally joined onto the treaty. Another 29, including the United States, have signed it, but not yet formally joined.
Trump was joined on his trip to Indianapolis by White House national security adviser John Bolton, an advocate of withdrawing the United States from international treaties out of concern they might undermine U.S. authority.
With Friday's announcement, Trump continued his drive to roll back Obama-era initiatives.
Nearly two years ago, Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to reduce global carbon emissions that scientists link to harmful climate change. Republicans argue the U.S. economy would suffer if it met the deal's carbon-reduction goals.
In May, 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 international deal that eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict limits being placed on Iran's nuclear activities. The United States has since reimposed some sanctions that had been suspended under the deal.
(Reporting By Roberta Rampton in Indianapolis, Steve Holland in Washington and Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Mary Milliken, Bill Trott and David Gregorio)