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14. Multilateral export controls



I. Introduction

II. The Missile Technology Control Regime

III. The Nuclear Suppliers Group

IV. The Wassenaar Arrangement

V. The impact of the 11 September terrorist attacks on multilateral export control

VI. Conclusions


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There are 5 multilateral weapon and technology export control regimes: the Australia Group (AG), the Zangger Committee, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Technologies. There are now 41 states that participate in one or more of the regimes while 27 states participate in all of them. The European Commission also participates in the Australia Group and the Zangger Committee and is represented in the NSG as an observer.


In 2001 the MTCR completed work on a draft International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, which will be discussed with a view to adopting the code in 2002.


Multilateral export control will play a role in counter-terrorist measures. The annual plenary meeting of the MTCR was one of the first opportunities at which officials could discuss the implications of the 11 September attacks on the USA. In early October the AG participating states discussed the role of export controls in reducing the threat of terrorist attacks with chemical and biological weapons (CBW). The AG underlined that its objectives include preventing the acquisition of CBW by non-state actors. In December 2001 participating states agreed to modify the initial elements of the Wassenaar Arrangement to make clear their commitment to prevent the acquisition of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies by terrorist groups and organizations as well as by individual terrorists.


While a significant number of states have developed common rules and habits of cooperation in the framework of the multilateral export control regimes, there has been a growing sense that the momentum established within the regimes in the first half of the 1990s was not maintained. Prior to the 11 September attacks the experience of the regimes was that there remain significant disagreements between participating states over important issues. Disagreements often stem from the fact that licensing decisions are based on national interpretations of regime rules. These are in turn steered by the interests of participating states rather than a common norm or a common perception of the risks posed by particular transfers. Recent Russian sales of nuclear fuel and nuclear reactors to India are considered to be a violation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines. The NSG continued to discuss how to respond to decisions by Russia related to nuclear supply.


After 11 September certain decisions that were difficult to take in the framework of the regimes may have become possible. Particular attention is being paid to the following questions: the development of procedures for sharing information related to licensing and enforcement; the development of a more harmonized approach to risk assessment and the identification of programmes of concern; the development of common approaches to end-user controls in countries where programmes of concern are located; and how to apply controls to new types of commercial practices in a changing market.



Dr Ian Anthony (United Kingdom) is the Leader of the SIPRI Internet Database on European Export Controls Project. In 1992–98 he was Leader of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Project. His most recent publication for SIPRI is A Future Arms Control Agenda: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 118, 1999 (2001), for which he is co-editor (with Adam Daniel Rotfeld). He is also editor of the SIPRI volumes Russia and the Arms Trade (1998), Arms Export Regulations (1991) and SIPRI Research Report no. 7, The Future of Defence Industries in Central and Eastern Europe (1994), and author of The Naval Arms Trade (SIPRI, 1990) and The Arms Trade and Medium Powers: Case Studies of India and Pakistan 1947–90 (1991). He has written or co-authored chapters for the SIPRI Yearbook since 1988.

Dr Ian Anthony