Statement by the Chair of the 2015 Australia Group Plenary
5 June 2015
The 41 Member Countries of the Australia Group (AG) and the European Union marked the Group's 30th anniversary at the Plenary meeting in Perth this week. The Australia Group was formed after the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War. Its work aims to counter the spread of technologies and materials used for chemical and biological weapons (CBW) through coordinated export controls, information sharing and outreach.
During the meeting, Members noted that export controls facilitated trade by preventing the diversion of legitimate trade towards weapons of mass destruction. Members emphasised that importers of proliferation-sensitive materials and technology also need to implement export controls, in order to provide confidence to suppliers that such materials and technology would not be re-exported for the benefit of proliferators. Export controls also help countries implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540.
Among the measures Australia Group member countries agreed to take to strengthen CBW non-proliferation were:
- Intensifying the Australia Group focus on emerging technologies that can be used for chemical and biological weapons.
- Expanding outreach to non-members as well as industry and academia to highlight the threat posed by state and non-state actors seeking to acquire the know-how to develop chemical and biological weapons.
Consideration was given to the interest in membership from specific countries and to the group's approach to future membership questions.
Australia Group participants agreed to enhance national efforts to control intangible transfers of AG-listed technology (ITT), and will continue to share information on approaches to visa vetting and the control of proliferation-sensitive brokering services.
As in past years, licensing and enforcement experts shared experiences and information to prevent attempts to proliferate sensitive dual-use chemicals, biological materials and related equipment. The Group reviewed proliferation risks associated with new and emerging technologies. Participating experts continued their work to refine controls applied to the chemical and biological items on the AG Control Lists. Updated lists as well as the Australia Group Guidelines are available at www.australiagroup.net.
A Dialogue, focusing on two enforcement exercises, was held with six non-members to share best practices and methods of strengthening efforts to prevent the spread of chemical and biological weapons. This year was the first time that the AG Dialogue was held simultaneously with the Plenary, allowing non-members to interact directly with all AG Participants.
The Australia Group agreed to continue an active program of international outreach and engagement in 2015-16 to further enhance efforts to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. Particular emphasis was given to encouraging adherence to the AG Guidelines, fighting the growing threat of CBW terrorism, the need for catch-all controls and the importance of outreach to industry and academia.
The Plenary continued to advocate active engagement to build understanding and cooperation between governments, industry and academia to address proliferation threats. Agreed actions include:
- sharing information between member states on domestic outreach to key industries and academia;
- alerting non-members to the importance of their own domestic outreach activities to prevent proliferation; and
- reaching out directly to international industry and academic forums to raise awareness of proliferation issues.
The Australia Group recognised Kazakhstan's formal adherence to the AG Guidelines pursuant to AG decisions at the 2014 Plenary. Encouraging such adherence is important to increase synergies with the growing number of non-participants using the AG control lists and Guidelines as the benchmark for global best practice chemical and biological export controls and reduce loopholes that proliferators and terrorists can exploit. Adherents also will be afforded a broader range of information from AG participants to assist them in observing global best practice. AG participants urge all countries to adhere by informing the AG Chair, in writing, of their political commitment to control the export of all items on the AG common control lists according to the AG Guidelines, including subsequent changes.
The Australia Group affirmed its view that the horrific use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria underlines the necessity for the complete eradication of chemical weapons for all time by all countries through the universal adherence to and effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Since Syria's 2013 accession to the CWC, the Australia Group welcomes the progress made in the destruction of Syria's declared chemical weapons programme. However, attacks using toxic chemicals continue. Until these stop, and until Syria facilitates the complete and verified destruction of its entire chemical weapons programme and resolves all ambiguities in its declaration to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international community will not have confidence that Syria is meeting its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 2118 and 2209 and the CWC in full. The Australia Group Plenary also expressed concern about chemical and biological activities in other countries including the DPRK, and in the Middle East region.
In her speech to the Plenary, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affaris, Ms Julie Bishop, emphasised the important role of the Australia Group's work in preventing the spread of chemical and biological weapons.
AG members accepted France's offer to host the next Plenary in Paris, France in 2016.
Further information on the Australia Group is available at www.australiagroup.net.