2008 Australia Group Plenary
Representatives of 40 countries and the European Commission have this week concluded the annual plenary meeting of the Australia Group. The Australia Group is a cooperative and voluntary body dedicated to the adoption, implementation and enforcement of cutting-edge measures to counter the spread of technologies and materials that could assist states of concern and terrorist groups in obtaining or developing chemical and biological weapons. The plenary was co-hosted by the French Government and took place in Paris from 14 to 18 April 2008.
In the 2008 plenary, Australia Group members shared information on proliferation attempts by states of concern and non-state actors. The Group discussed the detection of such attempts and counter-measures, including enhancement and coordination of licensing and customs controls.
In recognition of rapid international developments in the field of synthetic biology, Australia Group members agreed to form a synthetic biology advisory body as a means of ensuring the Group is kept abreast of, and can respond quickly and appropriately to, technological developments in this area. Several changes were proposed to the Group’s chemical and biological control lists, and were adopted or referred for further consideration as appropriate.
The Australia Group continued to enhance cooperative measures to deal with Intangible Technology Transfers (ITT), an area of increasing priority in the defence against the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons capabilities. Group members exchanged information on national measures for screening visa applications as a means of countering ITT of concern.
While no new members were admitted to the Group in 2008, interest in membership from several countries received appropriate attention, and further engagement with these countries was approved by the plenary.
The Australia Group continues to ensure that its control lists keep pace with technological and industry developments. As a result, the Group’s control lists continue to be an international benchmark for best practice controls on chemical and biological agents and equipment, and are increasingly used as a guide for international action in this area, including in the support and application of relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Australia Group members continue to ensure that non-proliferation export controls do not hinder legitimate trade and technical cooperation in the chemical and biological sectors.
International acceptance of Australia Group controls and practices are in part a result of the Group’s extensive outreach to non-members and other international bodies. The Australia Group plenary reviewed its outreach efforts and priorities, and agreed to continue an active outreach program in 2008-09. Informative and cooperative outreach to domestic industry and academic sectors was emphasised as a continuing priority for Australia Group members.
Further information on the Australia Group is available at www.australiagroup.net.