The Australia Group

Fighting the spread of chemical and biological weapons. Strengthening global security.

Australia Group Meeting, 16 - 19 October 1995, Paris

Australia Group participants held informal consultations at the Australian Embassy in Paris between 16-19 October 1995 to discuss the continuing incidence of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) proliferation. These consultations stemmed initially from the disclosure in the 1980s that Iraq had exploited the international trade in chemicals and related technology to build up a massive chemical weapon (CW) stockpile. Participants at the latest talks were Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States, with Romania taking part for the first time.

Experts from participating countries discussed national export licensing systems aimed at preventing any inadvertent assistance to the production of CBW. They endorsed the importance of export licensing arrangements in providing practical support for the global bans on these weapons, while confirming that members administer export controls in a streamlined and effective manner which allows trade and the exchange of technology for peaceful purposes to flourish without restriction. They agreed to continue working to focus national measures efficiently and exclusively on preventing any contribution to chemical and biological weapons programs. In this context the meeting agreed to several amendments to the lists of biological weapons-relevant materials and equipment, taking into account developments since these lists were last reviewed including recent revelations concerning the Iraqi BW program.

Participants maintain a strong belief that full adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC) will be the only way to bring about a permanent global ban on CBW. All states adhering to these conventions are obliged to ensure their national activities support this goal. The countries taking part in Australia Group discussions plan to be among the original States Parties of the CWC when it enters into force - all these countries have signed the Convention, fifteen have already ratified it, and the others are actively preparing for early ratification. The participants are taking steps to ensure that all relevant national regulations promote the object and purpose of the CWC and will be fully consistent with it upon its entry into force, and exchanged views at the meeting on their national approaches to this. The lessons derived from practical experience in export licensing are assisting individual countries in their preparations for national implementation of their principal obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) while ensuring they do not restrict or impede trade and other exchanges not prohibited by that convention.

Similar national policies seek to fulfil existing obligations under the BTWC not to assist the production of BW. As States Parties to the BTWC, all participating countries also support efforts to strengthen that convention through the negotiations commenced earlier in 1995 in the Ad Hoc Group.

Despite these international agreements, active chemical and biological weapons programs continue in some countries. The imperative accordingly remains for national measures to prevent civilian industry and traders from becoming unwitting contributors to these CBW programs. Participants consider that neglecting this responsibility would amount to tacit support for manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. National export licensing policies in the chemical sphere therefore fulfil the obligation established under Article I of the CWC that States Parties never assist, in any way, the manufacture of CW. These measures are also consistent with the undertaking in Article XI of the CWC to facilitate the fullest possible exchange of chemical materials and related information for purposes not prohibited by the Convention, as they are focused solely on preventing assistance to activities banned under the CWC. In this context, participants reaffirmed their national commitment to the statement made on behalf of Australia Group participating countries to the Conference on Disarmament in August 1992.

Participants also considered how best to contribute to international dialogue on the need for and role of national measures focused on preventing assistance to CBW production in line with the international bans on these weapons. They agreed to continue with a wide range of contacts, including a further active program of briefings for countries not participating in the talks, and to promote regional consultations to further awareness and understanding of national policies in this area. In this context, participants welcomed Japan's plans to host a third Asian seminar on export controls in Tokyo in early 1996, and Romania's offer to convene a seminar on CBW export controls of Central and Eastern European countries and Commonwealth of Independent States in Bucharest in October 1996.

The meeting also discussed the terrorist use of CBW, noting that recent developments had heightened concerns about such risks.

Participants agreed to hold further consultations in October 1996.