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Expert Working Group on arms export controls explores best practices in preventing proliferation

15 January 2019

A group of international trade and export control specialists gathered in Vienna, Austria on 6 and 7 December to discuss strategies for effective communication between government authorities and business sectors concerned with manufacturing and international trade in strategic goods and technologies.

The Expert Working Group (EWG) – which consists of senior government officials, policy experts and practitioners as well as industry representatives from Asia, Europe and the US – was set up to exchange ideas on good practice, advance common approaches and facilitate international collaboration on strategic trade control (STC) issues. The group has met regularly in Vienna and also in Beijing since 2017.

At the December meeting the group discussed a draft toolkit elaborating elements for the design and implementation of effective outreach strategies and compliance programmes. The toolkit is composed of two parts. The first, on government outreach on STC, illustrates some common challenges faced by government authorities when conducting STC outreach, training and education, and provides tools and cases of good practices from countries represented in the EWG to promote STC awareness and compliance among industry. The second part of the toolkit looks into industry internal compliance programmes (ICPs), detailing essential components and outlining measures to address difficulties encountered by companies around the development and adoption of ICPs.

The discussion on the draft toolkit was followed by a policy workshop on 7 December, where the EWG was joined by additional industry representatives, officials from governments and international organisations, and diplomats based in Vienna. They explored government outreach to academia and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and the outreach efforts of industries, trade associations, non-governmental and international organisations. The draft toolkit was also presented at the workshop, and participants exchanged ideas on how to best share and use the toolkit.

After the events in Vienna, the EWG travelled to London for a two-day study visit. The EWG met with representatives from the ADS Group (the premier trade organisation for companies in the UK aerospace, defence, security and space sectors). Industry representatives shared their experience on how to build a culture of compliance within companies, and the role of multinational corporations and industry associations in promoting STC compliance among SMEs. The discussion was then extended to industry’s perspectives on government outreach on STCs, including in relation to controls of intangible transfer of technologies (ITT).

A meeting was also held with officials from the Department of International Trade (DIT) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 11 December which allowed the EWG to gain an insight into the UK export controls system as well as into a ‘gold standard’ of outreach programmes to the business community. Inter-agency coordination and government-business partnership were highlighted as key to the UK government’s approach to STC outreach.

Finally, the EWG held a discussion on control of ITT with UK-based think tanks, especially focusing on challenges associated with new technologies, with participants citing additive manufacturing (3D printing) as an example to illustrate the complexity of ITT controls. It was noted that industry and academia has a particularly important role to play in informing policy around ITT controls.

The discussions in Vienna and London were informative and insightful for participants. The experience sharing on government outreach on specialised issues, the huge potential of business actors in promoting STC awareness and compliance, and the emphasis on active interaction between the government and the business sector all contributed to enriching the content of the toolkit, which is to be finalised in the first quarter of 2019. The EWG will then focus on the implementation of the toolkit with pilot projects on the ground.

Saferworld works together with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC) and the Center for Policy Research of the State University of New York on an initiative titled ‘Tackling the illicit transfer and diversion of proliferation-sensitive goods and technologies: supporting government outreach and encouraging a culture of compliance among industry’, which provided the platform for this dialogue process.

Read more about Saferworld’s arms programme and China programme.

Read our previous report on policy workshop in June 2018.

Read our previous news article on a policy workshop in October 2017.