Concluding its annual meeting in Paris (3-6 June), the Australia Group today agreed to adopt tougher export controls aimed at preventing the spread of chemical and biological weapons (CBW), including to terrorist groups.
The Australia Group is an informal network of countries that consult on and harmonise their national export licensing measures on CBW items. Participants aim to prevent any inadvertent contribution to chemical or biological weapons programs. 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 chemical 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 international 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.
The Group agreed to additional measures to promote awareness of the threat of CBW proliferation through publication of the Australia Group booklet - "Fighting the spread of chemical and biological weapons: Strengthening global security". This complements the Australia Group website.
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.