Export Control System

Objectives | Products affected | Procedure | Customs control | Further information

As part of the "SAFE" standards framework advocated by the WCO (World Customs Organisation) to secure and facilitate global trade, countries and customs territories have put in place export control systems, which aim to secure the flow of goods as they leave those countries and customs territories.

The elements described here will give you a comprehensive understanding of the various provisions and other issues relating to these controls.


The main objective is to control all types of exports that are likely to be used for the development, beyond weapons, of instruments or technologies intended for combat and mass destruction. It also seeks to protect legitimate trade.

There are specific provisions relating to the control of war or nuclear material.

Controls are also in place on exports to countries under sanctions and embargo.

The Wassenaar Arrangement is a global multilateral arrangement to control exports of conventional arms and war materials and related dual-use goods and technologies. It now includes some forty states.

Products affected

States participating in the Wassenaar Arrangement control the export of all items included in the list of dual-use goods and technologies and the military list.

This list, which is common to all, may be supplemented by national lists subjecting additional goods to the export control regime.

This means that "dual-use goods" are particularly affected by export controls. These are products or services that are "capable of both civilian and military use", i.e. generally intended for civilian use, e.g. in industry, but which may also be used to develop military weapons or equipment. As such, their export is not prohibited a priori, but they are subject to control when they leave the territory.

Ten categories of equipment and technologies are included in the list of dual-use items and are therefore considered to be susceptible:

  • Category 0: Nuclear material, installations and equipment
  • Category 1: Special materials and related equipment
  • Category 2: Materials processing
  • Category 3: Electronics
  • Category 4: Computers
  • Category 5: Telecommunications and "Information security"
  • Category 6: Sensors and lasers
  • Category 7: Navigation and avionics
  • Category 8: Marine
  • Category 9: Aerospace and propulsion

The descriptions and subdivisions in this list are updated annually. As an exporter, it is your responsibility to review them periodically.


The applicable regulations are principally identified by the customs classification number of the product to be exported. Consequently, it is essential that your product is correctly classified in the customs nomenclature.

Customs administrations may set up "equivalence tables" between the customs nomenclature codes and those of the dual-use goods list. This system is an information tool for traders and a control tool for the customs service.

Controls generally take the form of an obligation to obtain a licence. If the product you wish to export is classified as dual-use goods, an application for a licence or prior authorisation must be made to the export control authority.

In each case, such licences may be subject to conditions relating, for example, to the end use of the exported product.

When the licence application has been submitted, the competent body checks its administrative admissibility and then carries out a technical examination of the application.

Customs control

If your product is susceptible to being considered dual-use goods and to avoid blockages at customs, it is essential that you anticipate the customs regulations in this area, in particular by checking whether your product is listed in one of the ten dual-use goods categories. If you are in any doubt about the nature or classification of your products, you can contact the customs service.

During export clearance, the customs service may carry out a document check or physical check of the goods, which may lead to a laboratory check to determine whether they are dual-use goods.

It is a customs offence to attempt to export dual-use goods without a licence. The trader is exposed to penalties determined by each customs territory (heavy fines, imprisonment, etc.).

Further information

Internal resource:

Export Controls

External resources:

Conventions and programmes on export controls
The Australia Group (AG)

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