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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Fact Sheets > 2004
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Nonproliferation
Washington, DC
August 2, 2004

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Questions and Answers

Why is it necessary to have export-licensing measures for rockets and unmanned air vehicles (UAV) capable of delivering WMD and their related equipment, material and technology?
  • The proliferation of WMD and their delivery systems is a threat to the security of the U.S., our forces abroad, allies, and friends. One way to counter this threat is to maintain vigilance over the transfer of missile equipment, material, and related technologies usable for systems capable of delivering WMD.

  • National export licensing measures on these technologies make it much more difficult for countries or terrorists to acquire and/or produce a WMD-capable delivery system. Recognizing this, the MTCR Partners and other countries have voluntarily chosen to introduce export-licensing measures on delivery systems and their related equipment, material, and technology, which are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

What is the role of the MTCR?

  • The MTCR is an informal and voluntary association of countries that share the goal of nonproliferation of unmanned delivery systems for WMD, and seek to coordinate national export control licensing efforts aimed at preventing their proliferation.

  • The regime rests on adherence to common export control policies (MTCR Guidelines) applied to a common list of controlled items (MTCR Annex). Partners have equal standing in the regime and all decisions are taken by consensus.

  • The MTCR does not take export-licensing decisions as a group. Rather, individual partners are responsible for implementing the Guidelines and Annex on the basis of sovereign national discretion and in accordance with national legislation.

  • Partners regularly exchange information about relevant national export licensing issues in the context of the regime’s overall aims.

What items are controlled?

  • Partner countries exercise restraint in the consideration of all transfers, on a case-by-case basis, of items contained in the MTCR Annex.

  • Category I Annex items include complete “missile” -- i.e., rocket and unmanned air vehicle -- systems, capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kg to a range of at least 300 km, and their major subsystems and related technology. Exports of Category I items are subject to a strong presumption of denial, except that transfers of specially designed production facilities for Category I items are prohibited.

  • Category II Annex items include propulsion and propellant components, launch and ground support equipment, various other missile-related components, and related technology, as well as certain other missile systems. Exports of Category II items are subject to case-by-case review against specified nonproliferation factors, and are subject to a strong presumption of denial if the system is intended for WMD delivery.

Do MTCR Controls affect legitimate aerospace programs?

  • Export licensing requirements are not bans. The objective of MTCR export controls is to prevent transfers contributing to delivery systems for WMD. MTCR controls are not intended to impede peaceful aerospace programs or international cooperation in such programs, as long as such cooperation could not be used for the delivery of WMD. Nor are they designed to restrict access to technologies necessary for peaceful economic development.

  • The MTCR Guidelines help to build confidence among supplier countries that they can provide access to technology without such technology being diverted to a WMD delivery system or program.

Are there any end-user undertakings?

  • MTCR Partners have agreed that, in a manner consistent with their national laws and practices, and when relevant under the MTCR Guidelines and other existing undertakings, Partner countries should take the following steps before the transfer of a controlled item:

    • A statement from the end-user specifying the use and end-use location of the proposed transfer, accompanied, if necessary, by documents explaining its business activities and organization;

    • An explicit end-use assurance stating that the proposed transfer(s) will not be used for any activities related to the development or production of WMD delivery systems;

    • Where possible, and if deemed necessary, an assurance that a post-shipment inspection may be made by the exporter or the exporting government.

  • Partners have also agreed that they should obtain end-user assurances that their consent will be secured, in a manner consistent with their national law, prior to any retransfer to a third country of the equipment, material or related technology, or any replica thereof.

How is inter-Partner trade regulated?

  • Membership in the MTCR does not involve either an entitlement to obtain technology from another Partner or an obligation to supply it. Partners have explicitly affirmed this principle.

  • Partners are expected, just as in such trade between Partners and non-Partners, to exercise appropriate accountability and restraint in inter-Partner trade.

On what basis are membership decisions taken?

  • The decision to admit a new Partner is taken by consensus.

  • In making membership decisions, Partners tend to consider whether a prospective new member would strengthen international non-proliferation efforts, demonstrates a sustained and sustainable commitment to non-proliferation, has a legally based, effective export control system that puts into effect the MTCR Guidelines and Annex, and administers and enforces such controls effectively.

  • The Regime’s dialogue with prospective Partners is conducted through the MTCR Chair, visits to capitals by representatives of 3-4 MTCR Partner countries, and bilateral exchanges.

  • The Regime does not have an observer category.

Can countries adhere to the MTCR Guidelines and Annex without being obliged to join the Regime?

  • MTCR Partner countries encourage all countries to observe the MTCR Guidelines and Annex.

  • A country can choose to adhere to the MTCR without being obligated to join the group, and a number of have done so. MTCR Partners welcome opportunities to conduct broader dialogue on non-proliferation issues with such countries.

How often do MTCR Partners meet?

  • MTCR Partners hold an annual plenary meeting chaired on a rotational basis.

  • Intersessional consultations take place monthly through “point of contact” (POC) meetings in Paris. POC meetings are on occasion “reinforced” by the attendance of officials based in capitals (so called “Reinforced POC” or “RPOC” meetings). Technical experts meetings are held on an ad hoc basis.

  • The MTCR has no secretariat. Distribution of the Regime’s working papers is carried out through a central “Point of Contact,” the functions of which are performed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France.

  • The MTCR also undertakes outreach activities to non-partners. These activities aim to both keep non-partners informed about the group’s activities and to provide practical assistance regarding efforts to prevent the proliferation of WMD delivery systems.

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