Department of Foreign Affairs ans Trade, Australia
New controls on conventional arms exports
The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and
Dual-Use Goods and Technologies was launched in The Hague on 19 December
1995. The Arrangement was formally established by a Final Declaration issued
by the representatives of 28 participating governments* who met in Wassenaar,
the Netherlands, on 18 and 19 December 1995.
The declaration acknowledged that the initial elements of the new Arrangement
were still subject to government approval and agreed that a small secretariat
servicing the Arrangement would be located in Vienna.
The first plenary meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement will be held in Vienna
on 2-3 April 1996 and the overall structure and operations of the new Arrangement
are expected to be finalised at this meeting.
The Wassenaar Arrangement is the successor regime to the Co-ordinating Committee
for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) established by NATO in 1949 to
control the export of military equipment and dual-use technologies to Warsaw
Pact states. Negotiations to establish a successor regime to COCOM commenced
in 1993 and COCOM was terminated in March 1994.
The basic objective of the Wassenaar Arrangement is to prevent the acquisition
of conventional arms and sensitive dual-use technologies for military end-uses
by States whose behaviour is, or becomes, a cause for serious international
concern. It is designed to complement existing weapons control and non-proliferation
regimes (the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers Group
and the Australia Group) and is not intended to impede bona fide civil transactions.
The Arrangement will be a very different regime from the mandatory Cold
War-era COCOM export controls, functioning as a voluntary regime based on
information exchanges on transfers and denials of designated goods and on
the application of national export controls. It will not target specific
countries ("rogue states") or regions ­p; it is envisaged that
"behaviours of concern" and trends with adverse regional security
implications will be revealed through the information exchange process.
There is a clear presumption that member countries will take appropriate
action ­p; and specifically cooperate in preventing acquisitions of potentially
destabilising arms or sensitive dual use items ­p; if the situation in
a region or the behaviour of a state becomes a cause for serious concern.
The new Arrangement will have two pillars ­p; dual-use technologies and
conventional arms. Dual-use technologies and goods are divided into three
tiers of sensitivity (basic, sensitive and very sensitive) with different
export licensing and information-sharing procedures applying to each of
Good progress has been made in defining dual-use goods and technologies
and in compiling and categorising the three tier lists. The lists will require
regular review and updating to accommodate developments in technology. In
terms of reporting obligations, conventional arms transfers and denials
under the Arrangement will be based at the outset on the UN Arms Register.
The UN Arms Register is a transparency regime which focuses on weapons platforms
and does not require detailed reporting on weapons systems.
Australia would like to strengthen the reporting requirements for conventional
arms transfers and denials under the new Arrangement to make it more effective
in identifying trends and State behaviour of concern. We see a need to expand
the reporting obligations for conventional arms to cover weapons systems
as well as platforms ­p; systems determine the capabilities of platforms
and systems information provides a clearer picture of trends and potential
proliferation problems, thereby facilitating the identification of trends
and behaviours of concern.
The information exchange will be the central feature of the new export control
Arrangement and its content and processes will be critical to the Arrangement's
effectiveness. From Australia's perspective, it is essential that all members
participate equally in the information exchange if the new regime is to
function transparently and effectively.
It is also important that the content and modalities of the information
exchange do not impose unreasonable resource demands on participating states
and that due provision is made to protect commercial-in-confidence information.
At present there are no formal requirements for membership of the Wassenaar
Arrangement although it is understood a prospective member would be a producer
or exporter of arms and/or dual-use technologies or goods, have acceptable
non-proliferation policies and credentials (usually interpreted to imply
membership or imminent membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime,
Nuclear Suppliers Group and Australia Group) and adhere to fully effective
export controls under national legislation.
Russia and the four Visegrad states (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland
and Slovakia) were admitted to the negotiations to establish the new Arrangement
in September 1995. The Republic of Korea and Argentina and possibly several
other countries are expected to be admitted at the first plenary meeting
of the Wassenaar Arrangement in April 1996.
Any assessment of the Wassenaar Arrangement must await the finalisation
of its structure and scope and experience of the actual operation of the
information exchanges on which the new Arrangement is based. The Arrangement
should, however, complement and reinforce existing global non-proliferation
mechanisms and close a significant gap between these international control
The present draft document defining the new Arrangement contains an evolution
paragraph which provides a foundation on which to develop the Arrangement
further in areas of perceived weakness or inadequacy and offers scope for
early consultations to strengthen the conventional arms reporting regime.
* The 28 member countries of the Wassenaar Arrangement are: Australia, Austria,
Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New
Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, the Slovak Republic,
Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
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