Bureau of Nonproliferation
August 10, 2004
The Australia Group
The Australia Group (AG) was founded in 1984 in the aftermath of the massive use of chemical weapons (CW) during the Iran-Iraq war. During the 1980s, evidence surfaced that several countries, including Iraq, were producing chemical weapons, using supplies from the international trade in chemicals and related equipment.
The principal impetus for the AG was to ensure that the industries of the participating countries did not assist, either purposefully or inadvertently, states seeking to acquire a CBW (chemical and biological weapons) capability.
AG participants observe and fully support international treaties and commitments against CBW.
Thirty-eight countries participate in the AG: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, and the U.S. The AG operates by consensus. The group meets annually, usually in Paris.
Countries requesting membership in the AG can only be admitted by a consensus of existing members. Applicant countries should have an established, effective, legally-based system of national export controls (including catch-all controls), and demonstrated compliance with all multilateral treaties banning CBW activities.
The list of items over which all Australia Group participants exercise national export control includes:
The AG seeks to impede the proliferation of CBW by providing a multilateral venue for:
The AG's activities complement and serve the objectives and goals of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
The AG urges other countries to adopt comparable export controls. AG members have agreed on a number of measures to reach out to other countries, and to foster better understanding of the AG and of nonproliferation efforts. Recent AG meetings have sought to refine the Group's internal operations and to regularize contacts with non-participants.
In 1993, the AG adopted a "no-undercut" policy to enhance cooperation in enforcing export controls. AG participants agreed to notify the Group of those export licenses for AG-controlled items denied for CBW nonproliferation reasons. Partners must then consult with the Government that denied a specific export license before deciding to approve an essentially identical transaction.
More recently, the AG: