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30 March 2005

United States Tightens Export Controls for Chemicals, Biologics

New rule consistent with Australia Group guidelines, Commerce Dept. says

Washington -- New requirements to help prevent sensitive chemical or biological items from being diverted to weapons use were adopted by the U.S. Department of Commerce March 30.

The rule expands the country scope of export-licensing requirements for listed items to all destinations, worldwide, according to the department's Bureau of Industry and Security. Prior to the March 30 rulemaking, the license requirement only applied to shipments of listed chemicals and biologics to "certain countries of concern," the bureau said.

The new export controls, which the bureau said are being imposed "for foreign policy reasons," are consistent with the "Guidelines for Transfers of Sensitive Chemical or Biological Items," endorsed by the Australia Group, of which the United States is a member.

The Australia Group (AG) is an informal international association that seeks to help exporting or transshipping countries minimize the risk of assisting chemical and biological weapon (CBW) proliferation. The group meets annually to discuss ways in which the national-level, export-licensing measures of its 38 members, plus the European Commission, can be made more effective in ensuring would-be proliferators are unable to obtain necessary inputs for CBW programs. All states participating in the Australia Group are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.

Items on the AG Common Control List of sensitive items include chemical-weapons precursors, dual-use chemical-manufacturing equipment and technology, biological agents, and animal and plant pathogens.

The new U.S. rule applies to any shipment of listed items exported from the United States on or after April 29.

The full text of the rule is available on the U.S. Federal Register Web site.