Multilateral Export Controls (MEC) - The Four Regimes

  • By: Staff Editor
  • Date: July 08, 2009
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 A Multilateral Export Control Regime (MECR) is an international body that states use to organize their national export control systems. There are currently four such regimes:

Regime Role
1. The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies. The Arrangement's purpose is to contribute to regional and international security and stability by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use (i.e., those having civil and military uses) goods and technologies to prevent destabilizing accumula-tions of those items.
  • The Wassenaar Arrangement establishes lists of items for which member countries are to apply export controls.
  • Member governments implement these controls to ensure that transfers of the controlled items do not contribute to the develop-ment or enhancement of military capabilities that undermine the goals of the Arrangement, and are not diverted to support such ca-pabilities.
  • In addition, the Wassenaar Arrangement imposes some reporting requirements on its member governments.
The list of restricted technologies is broken into two parts, namely, the "List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies" (also known as the Basic List) and the "Munitions List". The Basic List is composed of ten Categories based on in-creasing levels of sophistication. The Categories are:
  • Category 1 - Special Materials and Related Equipment
  • Category 2 - Materials Processing
  • Category 3 - Electronics
  • Category 4 - Computers
  • Category 5 - Part 1 - Telecommunications
  • Category 5 - Part 2 - "Information Security"
  • Category 6 - Sensors and "Lasers"
  • Category 7 - Navigation and Avionics
  • Category 8 - Marine
  • Category 9 - Aerospace and Propulsion
Basic List has two nested subsections: a Sensitive List and a Very Sensitive List. Items of the Very Sensitive List include materials for stealth technology, equipment that can be used for submarine detection, advanced radar, and jet engine technologies.
In order for an item to be placed on the lists, Member States must take into account the following criteria:
  • Foreign availability outside Participating States.
  • The ability to control effectively the export of goods.
  • The ability to make a clear and objective specification of the item.
  • Controlled by another regime, such as the Australia Group, Nuclear Suppliers Group, or Missile Technology Control Regime
2. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the control of nuclear related technology. It is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.
  • It is a group of 40 member countries established in 1992 and focused on stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • Initially the NSG had seven members: Canada, West Germany, France, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • In 1976-77, membership was expanded to fifteen with the admittance of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland.
  • Germany was reunited in 1990 while Czechoslovakia broke up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
  • Twelve more nations joined, up to 1990.
  • Following the collapse of the Soviet Union a number of former republics have been given observer status as a stage towards future membership.
  • China became a member in 2004.
  • The European Commission participates as an observer.
3. The Australia Group (AG) for control of chemical and biological technology that could be weaponized. The formation of the Australia Group (AG) in 1985 was prompted by Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Australia concerned with Iraq’s development of chemical weapons, recommended harmonization of international export controls on chemical weapons pre-cursor chemicals. As the AG membership grew, it expanded its focus to in-clude chemical production equipment and technologies and measures to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons.
  • The group, initially consisting of 15 members, held its first meeting in Brussels in September 1989.
  • It now has 41 members, including all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members except Mexico, the European Commission, all 27 Member States of the European Un-ion, Croatia, Ukraine and Argentina.
  • The name comes from Australia's initiative to create the group. Aus-tralia manages the secretariat.
  • The initial members of the group had different assessments of which chemical precursors should be subject to export control.
  • Later adherents initially had no such controls.
  • Today, members of the group maintain export controls on a uni-form list of 54 compounds, including several that are not prohibited for export under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but can be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons.
  • Delegations representing the members meet every year in Paris
4. The Missile Technology Control Regime for the control of rockets and other aerial vehicles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an informal and voluntary partnership between 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg pay-load at least 300 km.
  • The United States has been a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) since the regime’s inception in 1987.
  • The focus of the MTCR is to limit the proliferation of missiles capa-ble of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
  • Initially, the MTCR consisted of only seven members.
  • By the end of Fiscal Year 2002, the MTCR had grown to include 34 member countries that had agreed to coordinate their national ex-port controls to stem missile proliferation.
  • In 2002, the MTCR was supplemented by the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (ICOC), also known as the Hague Code of Conduct. This calls for restraint and care in the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weap-ons of mass destruction, and has 119 members, thus working paral-lel to the MTCR with less specific restrictions but with a greater membership.


Technical Advisory Committees
Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) advise the Department of Commerce on the technical parameters for export controls applicable to dual-use commodities and technology and on the administration of those controls. The TACs are composed of representatives from industry and government representing diverse points of view on the concerns of the exporting community. Industry representatives are se-lected from firms producing a broad range of goods, technologies, and software presently controlled for national security, foreign policy, nonproliferation, and short supply reasons.



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