Australia Group

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Australia Group

The Australia Group (AG) is an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. Coordination of national export control measures assists Australia Group participants to fulfil their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to the fullest extent possible.

The Australia Group is an informal arrangement which aims to allow exporting or transshipping countries to minimise the risk of assisting chemical and biological weapon (CBW) proliferation. The Group meets annually to discuss ways of increasing the effectiveness of participating countriesÂ’ national export licensing measures to prevent would-be proliferators from obtaining materials for CBW programs.

Participants in the Australia Group do not undertake any legally binding obligations: the effectiveness of their cooperation depends solely on a shared commitment to CBW non-proliferation goals and the strength of their respective national measures. Key considerations in the formulation of participantsÂ’ export licensing measures are:

they should be effective in impeding the production of chemical and biological weapons;
they should be practical, and reasonably easy to implement, and
they should not impede the normal trade of materials and equipment used for legitimate purposes.

All states participating in the Australia Group are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and strongly support efforts under those Conventions to rid the world of CBW.

Australia Group and the Treaties of the European Union

Description of Australia Group provided by the European Union Commission: Australia Group is the export control regime covering dual use items of chemical and biological nature.

History

In early 1984, a United Nations investigation team found that Iraq had used chemical weapons (CW) in the Iran-Iraq war in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, and that at least some of the precursor chemicals and materials for its CW program had been sourced through legitimate trade channels. In response, several countries introduced export controls on certain chemicals that could be used to manufacture CW.

These controls suffered from a lack of uniformity, and it soon became apparent that attempts were being made to circumvent them. This led Australia to propose a meeting of the countries with export controls with the aim of harmonising their national licensing measures and enhancing cooperation. The first meeting of what subsequently became known as the Australia Group took place in Brussels in June 1985. At that meeting, the 15 participating countries and the European Commission agreed that there was value in exploring how existing export controls might be made more effective to prevent the spread of CW.

The Group has met regularly since then, and annual meetings are now held in Paris. The scope of the export controls discussed by the Group has evolved to address emerging threats and challenges. Evidence of the diversion of dual-use materials to biological weapons programs in the early 1990s led to participantsÂ’ adoption of export controls on specific biological agents. The control lists developed by the Group have also expanded to include technologies and equipment which can be used in the manufacturing or disposal of chemical and biological weapons.

The number of countries participating in the Australia Group has grown from 15 in 1985 to 41 plus the European Union. The list is as follows:

Argentina (1993)Lithuania (2004)Australia (1985)Luxembourg (1985)Austria (1989)Malta (2004)Belgium (1985)Mexico (2013)Bulgaria (2001)Netherlands (1985)Canada (1985)New Zealand (1985)Croatia (2007)Norway (1986)Czech Republic (1994)Poland (1994)Denmark (1985)Portugal (1985)Estonia (2004)Republic of Cyprus (2000)European Union (1985)Republic of Korea (1996)Finland (1991)Republic of Turkey (2000)France (1985)Romania (1995)Germany (1985)Slovak Republic (1994)Greece (1985)Slovenia (2004)Hungary (1993)Spain (1985)Iceland (1993)Sweden (1991)Ireland (1985)Switzerland (1987)Italy (1985)Ukraine (2005)Japan (1985)United Kingdom (1985)Latvia (2004)United States (1985)

Legitimate Trade

Australia Group participants see export licensing as a vital means of ensuring that legitimate trade in chemicals, biological agents, and related equipment can proceed unfettered. Careful regulation of potentially sensitive exports helps to reduce the risk that companies will unwittingly export products for use in CBW programs, and therefore attract severe penalties. This gives companies greater confidence to trade in products which have the potential to be used in the production of CBW.

Licensing measures resulting from the Australia Group’s operations have a minimal impact on total trade in chemicals, biological agents and dual-use items and equipment. Export licences deter proliferation by increasing visibility of trade in relevant materials, and provide authority to stop a sale if the product concerned is likely to contribute to a CBW program. The licensing measures applied by Australia Group participants thus affect only sales to a small number of countries where there is evidence of an interest in developing or maintaining a CBW capacity or a risk of diversion to terrorists groups. The Group’s activities are limited to non-proliferation measures, and are neither intended to favour the commercial development of industries in participating states, nor to hinder legitimate economic development in other countries.

Handbooks

Since its founding, the AG has played an important role in hindering the spread of chemical and biological weapons. The AG Common Control Lists of dual-use materials, equipment, technology, and software – and guidelines for their responsible transfer – provide a framework for effective chemical and biological trade controls. While the AG has established sound lists of strategic chemical and biological goods, there remains a need for commodity-oriented training materials to enhance the capabilities of enforcement officers to identify dual-use materials and equipment in cargo shipments. Such resources also can assist other trade control officials in evaluating the legitimacy of transfers of these items.

The Australia Group Common Control List Handbook aims to serve as such a resource. The Handbook covers commodities found on each Common Control List and is divided into two volumes according to the threat posed by items on a particular list:

Volume I: Chemical Weapons-Related Common Control Lists

  • Chemical Weapons Precursors
  • Dual-Use Chemical Manufacturing Facilities and Equipment and Related Technology and Software

Volume II: Biological Weapons-Related Common Control Lists

  • Human and Animal Pathogens and Toxins
  • Plant Pathogens
  • Dual-Use Biological Equipment and Related Technology and Software

Chapters within each section provide an overview of the appearance, key features, uses, and global producers of each item on each control list. Brief introductions to dual-use technology are also included to provide context for the chemicals, pathogens, and equipment discussed, and additional supporting information can be found in the appendices to both volumes.

Australia Group in 2011

United States views on international law (based on the document “Digest of U.S. Practice in International Law”): On April 20, 2011, the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) issued a final rule revising the EAR to implement changes the Australia Group adopted in 2010 to its “Control List of Dual-Use Chemical Manufacturing Facilities and Equipment and Related Technology and Software,” its “List of Biological Agents for Export Control,” and its “List of Animal Pathogens for Export Control.” 76 Fed. Reg. 22,017 (Apr. 12, 2011). On September 12, 2011, BIS issued a final rule revising the EAR to implement changes the Australia Group adopted in 2010 to its “List of Biological Agents for Export Control.” 76 Fed. Reg. 56,099 (Sep. 12, 2011).

Australia Group

In relation to the international law practice and Australia Group in this world legal Encyclopedia, please see the following section:

Sanctions, Export Controls, International Restrictions

About this subject:

Export Controls

Under this topic, in the Encyclopedia, find out information on Nonproliferation-related Changes. Note: there is detailed information and resources, in relation with these topics during the year 2011, covered by the entry, in this law Encyclopedia, about Australia Group

Resources

See Also

  • Sanctions
  • Export Controls
  • International Restrictions
  • Export Controls
  • Nonproliferation

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  • Treaties of the United Nations (UN)
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Australia Group and the Treaties of the European Union

Description of Australia Group provided by the European Union Commission: Australia Group is the export control regime covering dual use items of chemical and biological nature.

Resources

See Also

Popular Treaties Topics

  • Treaties of the United Nations (UN)
  • Types of Treaties
  • International Treaties
  • Famous Treaties
  • Law of Treaties
  • Numbered Treaties

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