Australia Group participants held informal consultations in Paris between 6-9 October 1997 to discuss the continuing problem of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) proliferation. Their informal consultations were aimed in particular at cooperatively discussing and improving the application of national export licensing measures in order to prevent abuse of exports through the inadvertent supply by their own nationals of chemical precursors, biological agents or dual-use equipment to weapons of mass destruction programs.
Participants at these talks were Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
All participants at the meeting welcomed the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on 29 April 1997 as a long-awaited and important achievement in international efforts to abolish chemical weapons for all time, and they encouraged all countries which have not yet done so to sign and/or ratify that Convention. They noted with satisfaction the very good progress being achieved by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the implementation of the CWC.
In keeping with their strong commitment to both treaties, all Australia Group participating countries are States Parties to both the CWC and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). Participants restated their strong belief that full adherence to the CWC and the BTWC will be the best way to rid the world of these heinous weapons of mass destruction for all time. In this context, participants agreed that continued informal cooperation in the maintenance of effective export licensing measures remains relevant and reinforces the effective implementation of these Conventions. Australia Group participants undertook to ensure the continued transparency of their national CBW export controls.
Participants continued to review national exporting licensing policies to ensure that relevant national regulations promote the object and purpose of the CWC, are applied fairly, and remain fully consistent with it. Participants also recalled their previous expressions of support for the CWC, and reaffirmed these commitments.
Participants welcomed the progress of efforts to strengthen the BTWC in the negotiations taking place in the Ad Hoc Group of BTWC States Parties in Geneva. All Australia Group participating countries restated their strong support for the development of internationally agreed procedures for strengthening international confidence in the treaty regime by verifying compliance with BTWC obligations.
Experts from participating countries also discussed national export licensing systems aimed at preventing inadvertent assistance to the production of chemical and biological weapons. They endorsed the importance of export licensing arrangements in providing practical support for the global bans on these weapons, while confirming that participants administered export controls in a streamlined and effective manner which allows trade and the exchange of technology for peaceful purposes to flourish. They agreed to continue to focus these national measures effectively and solely on preventing any contribution to chemical and biological weapons programs. Participants noted that the value of these measures in inhibiting CBW proliferation benefited the whole international community.
Participants agreed to continue a wide range of contacts, including a further program of briefings for countries not participating in the Paris consultations to further awareness and understanding of national policies in this area. Participants endorsed in this context the importance of regional seminars as valuable means of widening contacts with other countries on these issues. In this context, participants welcomed the Asian regional seminar on export controls held in Tokyo in January 1997 and the regional CBW export control seminar for countries of central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States held in October 1996.
The meeting also discussed relevant aspects of terrorist interest in CBW and agreed that this serious issue requires continuing attention.
Participants agreed to hold further consultations in October 1998.