HELSINKI — Sweden's Social Democratic government has received general support from opposition parties for a new legislative plan to curb weapons sales to so-called autocratic and nondemocratic nations.

The proposed legislation would have a direct impact on weapons sales to certain countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America. Military sales to countries applicable under the new proposal would be regulated according to tougher humans rights criteria.

The proposed legislation will amend Sweden's existing Arms Export Controls Act. The strong degree of opposition party support for the legislative initiative means the new law could be introduced as early as 2018.

Countries that will be affected by the proposed legislation, like Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all remain important customers for Sweden's defense industry companies. 

Saab Group's CEO, Håkan Buskhe, warned government and opposition leaders that an "overly intrusive" arms control law could increase the company's domestic production costs, restrict the geographic scope for exports and might force it to relocate parts of its research and development operations abroad. 

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's administration has been under considerable pressure from opposition party leaders to tighten weapons sales and exports.

Opposition parties, led by the Centre, Moderate, Liberals and Green parties, had demanded weapons sales be further restricted to "dictatorship" states and countries where human rights are perceived to be under threat.

The legislative process has seen the government present a legislative bill containing a new, so-called democracy clause to the Riksdag's (Sweden's national parliament) Council on Legislation.

The Council on Legislation is tasked with examining the core proposals in the draft bill to ensure they do not conflict with Sweden's constitution and legal obligations, both in terms of domestic and international law.

Moderate Party defense spokesman Hans Wallmark described the legislative bill as a "compromise" solution that will give Sweden's defense companies greater certainty in doing business globally and exporting abroad.

"Some parties, like the Christian Democrats, wanted to ban weapons sales to all dictator states. It was important that the bill also recognized the need to protect, and not weaken, Sweden's defense industry. This Bill provides for such clarity and does not weaken our defense industry," Wallmark said.