November 26, 1997


Why are export licensing measures for ballistic and cruise missiles and other unmanned weapons of mass destruction (WMD) delivery vehicle, equipment, material and technologies necessary?

The risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, i.e., nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, is well recognized as a threat to international peace and security, including by the UN Security Council in its Summit Meeting Declaration of January 31, 1992. 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 the task of countries seeking to achieve capability to acquire and produce unmanned WMD means of delivery much more difficult. As a result, many countries, including all MTCR Partners, have chosen voluntarily to introduce export licensing measures on ballistic missiles and other unmanned air vehicle delivery systems or related equipment, material, and technology.

What is the role of the MTCR?

The Missile Technology Control Regime is an informal and voluntary association of countries which share the goals of nonproliferation of unmanned delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction, and which seeks to coordinate national export licensing efforts aimed at preventing their proliferation.

  • The group was originally established in 1987 and the number of partners has increased steadily to a present total of 29 countries (listed below).

The Regime rests on adherence to common export policy guidelines (The MTCR Guidelines) applied to an integral common list of controlled items (The MTCR Equipment and Technology Annex). Copies of these are available to interested non-Partners. Partners have equal standing in the regime. All MTCR 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 and practice.

Partners regularly exchange information about relevant national export licensing issues in the context of the Regime's overall aims.

The MTCR is the only multilateral arrangement dealing with ballistic and cruise missile and other WMD delivery vehicle systems or related equipment, material and technology.

What items are controlled?

Partner countries exercise restraint in the consideration of all transfers of items contained in the MTCR Equipment and Technology Annex. All such transfers are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Greatest restraint is applied to what are known as Category I items. These items include complete rocket systems (including ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles and sounding rockets) and unmanned air vehicle systems (including cruise missile systems, target and reconnaissance drones) with capabilities exceeding a 300km/500kg range/payload threshold; production facilities for such systems; and major sub-systems including rocket stages, re-entry vehicles, rocket engines, guidance systems and warhead mechanisms.

The remainder of the Annex is regarded as Category II, which includes complete rocket systems (including ballistic missile systems, space launch vehicles, and sounding rockets) and unmanned air vehicles (including cruise missile systems, target drones, and reconnaissance drones) not covered in Item I, capable of a maximum range equal to or greater than 300 km. Also included are a wide range of equipment, material, and technologies, most of which have uses other than for missiles capable of delivering WMD.

  • While still agreeing to exercise restraint, partners have greater flexibility in the treatment of Category II transfer applications.

Do MTCR controls affect legitimate aerospace programs?

Export licenses are not bans. The sole objective of export licensing is to prevent transfers contributing to delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction. 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 suppliers that they can provide access to technology without such technology being diverted to WMD delivery system programs.

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 obtain the following under-takings before the transfer of a controlled item:

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

  • an assurance explicitly stating that the proposed transfers will not be used for any activities related to the development or production of delivery systems for WMD;

  • where possible, 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 Partner countries should obtain assurances that their consent will be secured, in a manner consistent with their national law and practices, 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 an entitlement to obtain technology from another Partner and no 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 procedures, and administers and enforces such controls effectively.

  • The Regime's dialogue with prospective Partners is conducted through the MTCR Chair, visits to capitals by "quad" teams comprised of representatives of four MTCR Partners, and bilateral exchanges.

The group does not have an observer category.

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

MTCR Partner countries are keen to encourage all countries to observe the MTCR Guidelines on transfers of missiles and related technology as a contribution to common security.

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

What is the current membership of the Regime?

The current members of the MTCR are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

How often do MTCR Partners meet?

MTCR Partners hold an annual Plenary Meeting chaired on a rotational basis. Recent Plenaries have been held in Stockholm (1994), Bonn (1995), Edinburgh (1996), and Tokyo (1997). Intersessional consultations take place monthly through Point of Contact (POC) meetings in Paris. POC meetings are on occasion reinforced with capitals-based officials. 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 "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 both to keep non-Partners informed about the group's activities and to provide practical assistance regarding efforts to prevent the proliferation of WMD delivery systems.

  • In 1996, for example, the MTCR hosted a seminar in Washington on transshipment issues. The seminar was attended by policymakers and experts from seven non-Partner countries (Cyprus, Hong Kong, Jordan, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates). The seminar focused attention on transshipment issues relevant to the Regime and fostered a productive exchange of ideas on how to impede proliferators' misuse of transshipment.

  • A second transshipment workshop was held in London in March 1997. The same seven non-Partner states that attended the Washington seminar participated in the London workshop. This workshop focused on the legal authority to control transshipments of missile-related goods and technology.

  • A third workshop was held in Switzerland in June 1997 covering licensing and enforcement aspects of transshipments and was specifically addressed to licensing and customs officers.

The Regime expects to continue such activities in the future.