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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 66, September 2002

News Review

Australia Group Adopts New CBW Export Control Guidelines

Meeting in Paris on June 3-6, the 34 members of the Australia Group (AG) met to adopt new guidelines regulating the export of sensitive and dual-use chemical and biological material and equipment. According to a June 7 press release from the Group, the measures are aimed "at preventing the spread of chemical and biological weapons (CBW), including to terrorist groups." The release continues:

"The thirty-three participating countries, from Europe, the Asia-Pacific and the Americas, plus the European Commission, have agreed to:

  • adopt formal guidelines governing the licensing of sensitive and biological items. These guidelines are public, consistent with the Group's strong commitment to transparency. All countries are encouraged to adhere to these guidelines in the interest of peace and security.
  • include a 'catch-all' provision in its guidelines. This is the first time that an export control regime has agreed to include a 'catch-all' clause in its public guidelines, reflecting the resolve of participating national governments to use all means at their disposal to fight the spread of CBW.
  • apply more rigorous controls to the export of fermenters, lowering the volume threshold from 100 litres to 20 litres. This offers a substantial increase in security against terrorists seeking equipment for CBW attacks.
  • add eight new toxins to the Group's biological control list, raising to 19 the total number of controlled toxins.
  • control technology associated with dual-use biological equipment which could be used to manufacture biological weapons.
  • control, for the first time, the intangible transfer of information and knowledge which could be used for CBW purposes."

Anticipating criticism of the regulations as the consolidation of the Group's elite position in the world commercial market - as well as a complication of efforts to agree universal, non-discriminatory export control arrangements - the press release concludes by insisting:

"Participants reiterated their commitment to fair and transparent trade in chemical and biological materials for peaceful purposes. They agreed that the non-discriminatory application of national export licensing measures allows legitimate trade to expand unhampered by proliferation fears. All Australia Group participants are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). These conventions legally oblige all state parties, inter alia, not to assist in any way the development and production of chemical and biological weapons anywhere. Participants re-affirmed the central role of national export controls in this regard."

Note: the members of the AG are - Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: Guidelines for transfers of sensitive chemical or biological items, Australia Group (http://www.australiagroup.net), adopted June 6; New measures to fight the spread of chemical and biological weapons, Australia Group Press Release, June 7; Australia Group adopts new guidelines, Global Security Newswire, June 21.

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© 2002 The Acronym Institute.