The Australia Group

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

Australia Group Meeting, 29 November - 1 December 1994, Paris

Australia Group participants held informal consultations in Paris from 29 November to 1 December 1994, 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, Canada, the member States of the European Union, the European Commission, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States, with the Czech Republic, Poland and the Slovak Republic 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 considered how to ensure that export licensing arrangements provide practical support for the global bans on these weapons, and that they function in a streamlined and effective manner so as to allow 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 association with chemical and biological weapons programs. The lessons derived from practical experience in export licensing are assisting individual countries in their preparations for national implementation of their fundamental obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) while ensuring they do not restrict or impede trade and other exchanges not prohibited by that convention.

Participants maintain a strong belief that full adherence to the 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, five 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. 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.

Despite these international agreements, there are active chemical and biological weapons programs under way in some proliferating countries. The imperative 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 focussed 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 focussed 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 detailed bilateral 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 the Latin American regional seminar held in Buenos Aires on 15-16 November 1994. This approach reflects the strong desire of participants to ensure transparency of their national policies, to raise awareness about the importance of suitable export licensing as an integral part of global bans on chemical and biological weapons, and to encourage the implementation of appropriate national measures by all countries wishing to address responsibly the potential misuse of their products for CBW production.

Participants agreed to hold further consultations in October 1995.