Control of sensitive dual-use goods and technologies

Control of dual-use goods and technologies

"Dual-use goods" are products or services "that can have both a military and civilian application", that is to say generally intended for civilian purposes, for example in industry, but also for developing weapons and military equipment. As such, their export is not prohibited in principle, but is subject to restrictive controls, generally in the form of a required licence. Certain dual-use goods and technologies may have a conventional military use, while others may serve to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, such as: chemical and biological nuclear weapons, as well as missiles capable of carrying such weapons.

Export controls on dual-use items and technologies are legally based, in France and in the other EU Member States, on a Community regulation (amended Regulation EC No 428/2009 of 5 May 2009). The regulation notably defines the different types of export licence and sets down the list of items concerned. Controls apply to all exports to territories outside the European Union. Excepting certain very sensitive items appearing in a specific list annexed to the Regulation, transfers within the Community territory are not subject to such controls.

The list of dual-use items and technologies subject to controls is the first annex to the Regulation. It is updated regularly to take into account technological developments and availability on the international market. This list contains the dual-use items referred to by the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group (AG) which counters biological and chemical proliferation and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

It has been noted that certain countries are subject to import or export restrictions. The list of restrictive measures in this area is available on the French Customs website (in French).

In France, the Dual-Use Items Service (SBDU) of the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector is the licensing authority for exports of dual-use items. The most sensitive applications are examined by the Interministerial Dual-Use Items Commission (CIBDU), which is chaired by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

The Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement is a regime for the control of exports of conventional arms and dual-use goods.

The WA is a global multilateral arrangement for the control of exports of conventional arms and of dual-use goods and technologies used to manufacture them. It was established by 33 States in July 1996 and takes its name after the city of Wassenaar in the Netherlands. Today it is made up of 41 Participating States.

The Wassenaar Arrangement aims above all to promote "transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations." It supplements and strengthens existing regimes for the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Participating States of the Wassenaar Arrangement must ensure that their transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies do not help develop or build military capabilities that may jeopardize regional and international security and stability.

A political and technical forum

The Arrangement’s informal legal nature rests on a political commitment expressed in the "Initial Elements" and additional texts and statements unanimously adopted by the Participating States. All decisions within the Wassenaar Arrangement are adopted by consensus.

At the political level, States have agreed to:

  • be guided by the Guidelines or Elements and the Best Practices adopted by the Wassenaar Arrangement;
  • maintain national export controls under their national legislation on items appearing in the Lists of dual-use items and technologies and the Munitions List of the Arrangement;
  • report, with a view to greater transparency, transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods regarded as very sensitive, and denials of transfers of dual-use goods in general;
  • exchange information on exports of very sensitive dual-use items and technologies.

The Wassenaar Arrangement Secretariat is located in Vienna and has a staff of some 12 members. The WA Plenary convenes once a year and its subsidiary bodies meet on a more regular basis.

The Experts Group (EG) updates Control Lists yearly, in accordance with technological developments. The Munitions List of the Wassenaar Arrangement is included in the Common Military List of the European Union, and the List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies has been transposed into the Community Regulation on the control of exports of dual-use items (Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 as amended by Regulation (EU) No 1232/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011, Regulation (EU) No 388/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 April 2012, and Regulation (EU) No 599/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014). Export controls remain within the sovereignty of each Participating State.

The Australia Group

Created in 1985, the Australia Group brings together the 41 leading exporters of dual-use chemical and biological goods and technologies, including the European Union Member States and the European Commission.

Participants in the Australia Group are States Parties to the 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC) and the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC), and are actively involved in the conventions’ work and in ensuring compliance with their implementation.

The Australia Group approves lists of dual-use goods subject to export controls, and Guidelines for harmonizing the export control practices of AG Participants, without hindering trade and work for peaceful purposes.

The European Union has made these lists legally binding on its Member States by a Community Regulation whose latest version is Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009.

France participates actively in the work of the Australia Group through its continued commitment to the universalization and implementation of the CWC and the BWC, and of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous and Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, of which it is the depositary.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

The overall framework governing France’s exports in the nuclear field is defined by the Nuclear Policy Council (CPN). The CPN is chaired by the President of the Republic. Its meetings serve to define guidelines.

The Dual-Use Items Service (SBDU) and the Interministerial Dual-Use Items Commission (CIBDU) are tasked with examining applications for export licences in the field of nuclear and dual-use items. They ensure the proper implementation of CPN directives, Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 on dual-use items, and the Guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Zangger Committee.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group was created in 1974 and consists of 48 Participating Governments (PGs). The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by implementing two sets of Guidelines (lists of goods) for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.

The aim of the NSG Guidelines adopted in 1978 is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and that international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field is not hindered unjustly in the process. The NSG Guidelines facilitate the development of trade in this area by providing the means whereby obligations to facilitate peaceful nuclear cooperation can be implemented in a manner consistent with international nuclear non-proliferation norms.

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was established in 1987 by France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan to combat the proliferation of delivery systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and with a view to maintaining a dialogue on the principles to be adopted as a framework for exports of missile technology and equipment. The MTCR has gradually expanded to a membership of 34 partners.

The MTCR rests on the implementation, through national export control regimes, of common export policy guidelines applied to a common list of controlled military or dual-use items. These guidelines are not intended to impede national space programmes and related international cooperation, provided that these programmes do not contribute equipment and technology to systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

The MTCR also enables its Partners to regularly exchange information on relevant issues concerning controls and trends in the proliferation of WMD delivery systems.

France participates actively in the functioning of the Regime. It provides the permanent secretariat by acting as "Point of Contact (POC)" and as such organizes the annual Reinforced Point of Contact (RPOC) Meeting. The rotating MTCR Chairmanship is currently held by Norway, which took over from Italy. The MTCR Partners meet yearly during the annual Plenary Meeting.

The Regime has a public website:

Link to the press release on the public statement issued at the end of last year’s Plenary Meeting (Oslo, 29 September-3 October 2014):

List of MTCR Partners:

Argentina (1993), Australia (1990), Austria (1991), Belgium (1990), Bulgaria (2004), Brazil (1995), Canada (1987), Czech Republic (1998), Denmark (1990), Finland (1991), France (1987), Germany (1987), Greece (1992), Hungary (1993), Iceland (1993), Ireland (1992), Italy (1987), Japan (1987), Luxembourg (1990), Netherlands (1990), New Zealand (1991), Norway (1990), Poland (1998), Portugal (1992), Republic of Korea (2001), Russian Federation (1995), South Africa (1995), Spain (1990), Sweden (1991), Switzerland (1992), Turkey (1997), Ukraine (1998), United Kingdom (1987), United States of America (1987).

For further information:

Updated: December 2014