Little Progress at Wassenaar Export Control Regime Plenary

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, November/December 1998 | Go to article overview

Little Progress at Wassenaar Export Control Regime Plenary


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


AT A DECEMBER 2-3 plenary in Vienna, the 33 members of the Wassenaar Arrangement failed to reach consensus on a U.S. initiative to increase transparency on members' arms deals. However, member-states approved non-binding criteria to assist states in evaluating potential arms exports and took initial steps toward building restraint in exports of small arms and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), such as shoulder-fired ground-toair missiles.

Wassenaar, which became operational in July 1996, aims to promote transparency and "greater responsibility" among participating states in their export of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies to prevent destabilizing accumulations. Most major arms exporters participate in the arrangement, with the key exceptions of Brazil, China, Israel and South Africa. Unlike the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM)-Wassenaar's Cold War predecessor-the arrangement does not seek to restrict exports to a particular region. Yet it does encourage members to refrain from exports to regions in conflict and states of concern to other members. The arrangement has two control lists: the Munitions List and the Dual-Use Goods and Technologies List, which is broken into two tiers of "basic" and "sensitive" with a subset of "very sensitive." Twice per year, participating states voluntarily exchange information on deliveries of conventional arms in the seven categories of the UN Register of Conventional Arms (tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile systems). States also exchange information semi-annually on licenses denied for basic dual-use goods and licenses approved for sensitive and very sensitive items.

In addition, members are expected to notify other members within 60 days of license denials for sensitive or very sensitive dualuse goods and licenses approved if an "essentially identical transaction" was denied by another member within the previous three years. No state, however, can block another's export. A U.S. government official noted that despite a plenary statement touting the increased amount of information exchanged, a few countries have consistently not participated with regard to dual-use goods. The United States, one of a number of members that characterize Wassenaar as under-performing to date, further contends that the current reporting categories on conventional arms are inadequate. …

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