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Controlling the transfer of goods and technologies is key to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, uncontrolled trade in conventional arms and the unwanted proliferation of related technologies and intangible goods such as expertise. Export controls help governments implement commitments arising from multilateral arms control treaties, notably the Arms Trade Treaty, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 1540.

Switzerland is a member of the four non-binding international export control regimes – Australia Group, Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime and the Wassenaar Arrangement – which also guide its export controls.  Each regime has between 30 and 50 participating states that agree on detailed lists of goods in order to set out uniform export control criteria.

Switzerland controls the export of arms and dual-use goods (which could be used for either civilian or military purposes) based on these lists.

Export controls are most effective when they are applied by all the major supplier countries with as much standardisation as possible. By implementing the decisions of the various regimes, Switzerland is able to meet the obligations and interests arising from its constitution and foreign and security policy, as well as to protect its private-sector export companies from reputational damage and ensure its access to cutting-edge technologies.

Nuclear goods

Controls on international trade in nuclear goods aim to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons and related components. As a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Switzerland is committed to harmonised export controls for nuclear goods at multilateral level and exchanges relevant information within the group.

Switzerland has been a member since 1991 and took on annual chairmanship of the group in 2017.

Chemical and biological goods

Switzerland works with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Australia Group towards the destruction and non-proliferation of chemical weapons, and for the control of goods and components used for this purpose.

 

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

The OPCW implements the Chemical Weapons Convention and monitors the production and trade of certain chemicals, many of which are used legitimately in a wide variety of applications but may also be misused in the production of chemical weapons (dual-use character).

Chemicals subject to controls are divided into three lists according to the extent to which it is possible use them to produce chemical weapons. Certain chemicals may not be exported to non-member countries. These provisions are particularly important for Switzerland because of its large-scale chemicals and pharmaceutical industry.

Australia Group

The Australia Group aims to prevent the proliferation of goods and components that could be used to manufacture chemical or biological weapons.

Member states implement harmonised export controls to ensure that their industrial sectors do not knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the proliferation of chemical or biological weapons. At the same time, the group works to ensure that legitimate trade in controlled goods is not hindered.

The group focuses on harmonising national export control lists and exchanging information relevant to proliferation issues.

Conventional weapons

In this domain, Switzerland takes part in two export control regimes:

Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

The ATT seeks to prevent and eradicate illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms by establishing common international standards that apply comprehensively to the global trade in such weapons. The objective is to minimise human suffering and contribute to peace as well as global and regional security and stability.

Switzerland supports countries without effective trade controls to implement the ATT by providing its extensive experience in export control as well as funding for training and educational projects.

It was also successful in its efforts to secure the permanent secretariat of the ATT in Geneva. 

Wassenaar Arrangement

This agreement aims to prevent destabilising accumulations of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and help foster regional and global security and stability in this way.

Missile launching systems

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is responsible for export controls of missile launching systems. 

Weapon delivery systems and space security

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Last update 26.01.2022