International regimes and cooperation relating to dual-use goods

Export control regimes for sensitive items take the form of inter-governmental agreements that establish common guidelines for the assessment of export licence applications and lists of controlled goods.

Export control regimes for sensitive items take the form of informal, non-legally binding inter-governmental agreements that establish, by consensus:

  • Common guidelines for the assessment of export licence applications
  • Lists of controlled goods, drawn up based on the goods' sensitivity. These lists are updated annually based on changing technologies, safety requirements and the level of mastery of technology by non-member countries

Council Regulation (EC)  is directly binding on the EU's Member States. Annex I is a consolidated transposition of the lists of control regimes mentioned below.

The main international regimes

The 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

The goal of this informal, voluntary partnership between 35 governments, including France, is to prevent the proliferation of ballistic, cruise and other unmanned aircraft capable of travelling more than 300 km, as well as equipment, production and testing tools and technologies related to ballistic and tactical missiles. The system is based on compliance with common export policy guidelines (MTCR guidelines) that apply to a common list of controlled items (Technical Annex). The regime meets annually in plenary and also holds an intersessional technical meeting. The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs acts as the regime's permanent point of contact.

The 1974 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is the group of countries that supply nuclear technology. It strives to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of common guidelines for the export of such goods. Founded in 1974, it has 48 members (including the PRC and the European Commission as a permanent observer). Decisions by governments are made within the framework of their national prerogatives and legislation. A Committee of Nuclear Exporters (the ''Zangger Committee''), brings together 35 countries on the same theme.

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies of 1995 (WA)

Founded in the post-Cold War period in the Dutch city of the same name, the Wassenaar Arrangement aims to prevent the risks of regional or international destabilisation linked to the proliferation of sensitive goods and certain conventional weapons. To this end, the 42 Arrangement members have committed to implementing export controls for these types of goods. Annual meetings to update lists of controlled goods under the Arrangement are held in Vienna, where the WA secretariat is based.

The 1985 Australia Group (AG) on chemical and biological items

Set up in 1985 as an Australian initiative (following Iraq's use of chemical weapons), the goal of this informal group is to harmonise its members' export controls on items (goods and equipment) that could contribute to the production of biological or chemical weapons. The Australia Group has 42 members, including all OECD countries. The European Commission is also represented. The Group's members generally meet twice a year, during a plenary in Paris and an intersessional meeting in a member country. The agenda is divided into various sessions including the NETTEM (New And Evolving Technologies Technical Experts Meeting) dedicated to the exchange of information on the evolution and emergence of new technologies and the IM (Implementation Meeting) where the control criteria and their application are discussed.

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

This Convention establishes a total and permanent ban on all chemical weapons (including development, production, stockpiling and use). It is noted for its inspection system.

The Convention entered into force on 29 April 1997. Each member undertakes to destroy all chemical weapons and production facilities owned or possessed by it ten years after the entry into force of the Convention (April 2007).

However, the CWC covers not only chemical weapons but also many chemicals substances, some of which are quite common, that can contribute to their production.

The Convention's inspection regime is managed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague. The Organisation manages the application and interpretation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Its Executive Council is empowered to determine whether there has been a violation of the Convention and to refer it to the UN Security Council.

The 1972 Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention (BWC)

In April 1972, 80 governments signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, also known as the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). The Convention entered into force on 25 March 1975. Parties to the Convention undertake to never, under any circumstances, "develop, produce, stockpile, acquire or otherwise acquire or retain 1) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; 2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict." They also undertake to destroy, or to divert to peaceful purposes, all agents biological weapons and means of delivery which are in their possession or under their jurisdiction or control. Finally, they undertake not to transfer or to assist any State or international organisation with the acquisition or manufacture of these items.


Edited on 05/04/2022


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