International Transfer of Scheduled Chemicals

Container terminal, Hong Kong port
Container terminal, Hong Kong port.

The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the transfer, directly or indirectly, of chemical weapons to anyone. It also bans the use of chemical weapons and any involvement in preparations to use chemical weapons.

The Convention’s provisions affect a substantial segment of the global chemical industry. Compliance with the provisions of the Convention is monitored by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. All States Parties to the Convention are obligated to establish or designate a National Authority, a government entity responsible for comprehensive national implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention within each country.

For an adequate understanding of the Convention’s scope, it is important to emphasise that, in accordance with its purposes, the expression " chemical industry" comprises all chemical, pharmaceutical, and agrochemical enterprises and other related sectors, that not only produce and process, but also consume and/or trade internationally those chemicals identified in the Convention for verification purposes. This means that not only those firms or plants grouped within the traditional chemical industry sector may be subject to the Convention’s provisions. A considerable number of companies from other industrial or commercial sectors face obligations arising from the Convention.

In this section:

The CWC on Exports and Imports of Chemicals

The Chemical Weapons Convention attempts to strike a balance between the desire to promote free trade in chemicals and the undertaking given by each of its Member States never, under any circumstances, to transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone or to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited under the Convention. The term chemical weapons includes not only the weapons systems, but also the toxic chemicals used to fill them and any precursor chemicals.

The Convention, therefore, contains provisions covering the export and import of certain chemicals. These chemicals are listed in three schedules (lists) which form an integral part of the Convention. The first schedule contains chemicals which are known to have been developed or used as chemical weapons or are the immediate precursor compounds used in the production of chemical weapons. None of the compounds on this schedule are known to have any significant legitimate commercial use in quantities above one tonne per year.

Under the Convention Schedule 1 chemicals may only be acquired on the territory of a State Party and can only be transferred to other States Parties. All transfers are subject to advance notification and annual declaration. Re-export is not permitted. These restrictions apply irrespective of the amount to be transferred or the concentration of the chemical if transferred in a mixture. Transfer to any State not party to the Convention is forbidden under any circumstances.

Some examples of legitimate uses of small quantities of Schedule 1 chemicals are as follows:

(a) saxitoxin. This natural toxin is one of the reference standards routinely acquired by public health authorities in order to test shellfish for the toxins responsible for paralytic shell-fish poisoning (PSP). PSP toxins accumulate in the shellfish during periods of certain algae blooms ("red tides"). Testing is essential to prevent deadly poisoning of humans consuming the shellfish. In addition, many countries importing shellfish make testing a prerequisite to allowing any such import.

(b) ricin. This natural toxin is used in medical and pharmaceutical research and in the development of treatments of certain types of cancers as well as AIDS.

(c) mustine. Mustine is a component of mustine hydrochloride which is widely used for the treatment of certain types of cancer by chemotherapy.

Schedule 2 contains chemicals which are considered to pose a significant risk to the object and purpose of the Convention but which also have legitimate commercial uses in quantities in excess of one tonne per year. They are often traded as mixtures or in formulations.

Since 29 April 2000, Schedule 2 chemicals may only be exported or imported to/from other States Parties. In a decision taken in May 2000 by the Conference of the States Parties of the CWC, it was clarified that this prohibition also applies to mixtures containing Schedule 2B chemicals in concentrations above 10 per cent, the only exception being consumer goods packaged for retail sale for personal use or packaged for individual use.

Some examples of why a State Party might wish to import or export these chemicals, either as pure compounds or as components in formulations, are as follows:

(a) dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP), DMMP is used directly as a flame retardant for fabrics (e.g. seat covers, curtains, clothes, etc.). It is an important ingredient for the preparation of formulations (mixtures) such as automotive specialty lubricants and oils. It is also a raw material for the production of agricultural chemicals including pesticides.

(b) thiodiglycol. This chemical is widely employed in water based dyes for the cloth manufacturing industries, including the rural industries of developing countries. It is a key component in water based inks used in the manufacture of felt tip pens and in certain printing inks. It is also a starting chemical for the production of specialty resins and adhesives, and is used as a lubricant additive.

(c) arsenic trichloride. Arsenic trichloride is the key starting material for the production of most arsenic containing insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodentocides and defoliants.

(d) methyl phosphonic acid. This chemical is used as a starting material for the production of the herbicide glyphosate and the sugar cane ripener glyphosine.

Schedule 3 contains chemicals which are considered to pose a risk to the object and purpose of the Convention but which are typically manufactured in very large quantities for legitimate commercial purposes. Schedule 3 chemicals may only be exported to a state not party if that state issues an end-use certificate.

The world-wide trade in Schedule 3 chemicals and products containing them is vast, involving such product groups as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, resins and plastics, urethanes, adsorbent, antistatic agents, acrylics, preparations used in leather tannery, surfactants, corrosion inhibitors, materials used in gold extraction, vulcanising agents and many more. Some examples of reasons why a State Party might wish to import or export these chemicals, either as pure compounds or as components in formulations, are as follows:

(a) trimethyl phosphite (TMP), TMP is used as a flame retardant in the manufacture of flame resistant plastic and rubber products. It is used as an optical brightener, viscosity modifier and antioxidant in the manufacture of numerous products, ranging from lubricants to paints. It is also a raw material for the manufacture of agricultural and pesticide products.

(b) sulfur monochoride. This chemical is a vulcanising agent used in the manufacture of specialist rubber products, including tires, hoses, and electrical cable covers. It is also a raw material for production of sulfide products ranging from fungicides to cosmetics additives and dyes, and it is used as a treatment for vegetable oils and to harden softwoods.

(c) triethanolamine. Triethanolamine is a component of many formulations used by industries producing chemicals from natural gas or petroleum. Oil refineries use it to remove sulfur. It is very widely used in such products as oil drilling emulsions, cutting oils, automotive coolants, surface active agents, textile specialties, waxes and polishes, herbicides, cements, pharmaceutical products and toiletries.

The Convention does not contain specific provisions on exports and imports of non-scheduled chemicals, nor on chemical production equipment and technologies. States Parties have, however, undertaken not to assist in the proliferation of chemical weapons capabilities and are required to "adopt the necessary measures" to implement this undertaking, including through prohibitions and penal legislation. Consequently, unilateral legislation may be adopted by Member States establishing additional restrictions on the trade of non-scheduled chemicals, equipment and technologies which will have an impact on any country, particularly developing countries that are not States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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Restrictions on the International Transfer of the Scheduled Chemicals

The Verification Annex of the Convention establishes the following restrictions on the international transfer of scheduled chemicals:

Schedule 1 Chemicals

Export:   

  • Exports to States not Party to the Convention are prohibited.
  • Exports can be made to other States Parties only for justified non-prohibited (research, medical, pharmaceutical or protective) purposes and within a quantity which allows the purchasing State Party to retain an aggregate amount of such chemicals equal to or less than one tonne at any given time.

Import:

  • Imports from States not Party to the Convention are prohibited.
  • Imports from other States Parties for justified non-prohibited (research, medical, pharmaceutical, or protective) purposes are allowed, and only within a quantity which allows the importing State Party to keep an aggregate amount of such chemicals equal to or less than one tonne at any given time.

Schedule 2 Chemicals:

Export:

  • Three years after the entry into force of the Convention, on 29 April 2000, the export of Schedule 2 chemicals to States not Party was prohibited.

Import:

  • Three years after the entry into force of the Convention, on 29 April 2000, the import of Schedule 2 chemicals from States not Party was prohibited.
  • Schedule 3 Chemicals:

Export:

  • Each State Party shall adopt the measures necessary to ensure that transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to States not Party shall be used only for purposes not prohibited by the Convention. Such measures shall include requesting from the recipient State a certificate which has to state, inter alia,
    • that the transferred chemicals will be used only for purposes not prohibited by the Convention;
    • that they will not be re-transferred;
    • the types and quantities of the chemicals;
    • their end-use(s); and
    • the name(s) and address(es) of the end-user(s).

Discrete Organic Chemicals (DOCs)

The Convention also includes provisions for another group of chemicals, which is of considerable importance to the chemical industry: the group of (unscheduled) “discrete organic chemicals (DOCs)”.

These are understood to mean any chemical belonging to the class of chemical compounds consisting of all compounds of carbon —with the exception of its oxides, sulfides and metal carbonates— which are identifiable by means of their chemical name, structural formula (if known), and by their Chemical Abstracts Service registry number, if assigned.

In the case of such DOCs, production facilities —with the exception of those dedicated exclusively to the production of hydrocarbons,explosives or polymers/oligomers— must be declared whenever the aggregate annual production of all DOC’s surpasses 200 tonnes.

Should these compounds contain phosphorus, sulfur or fluorine, the declaration threshold for each chemical will be 30 tonnes per year.

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Aggregate National Data: Transfer of Schedule 2 and 3 Chemicals

Development of uniform criteria for identifying and reporting on the import and export of scheduled chemicals is one of the most complex and demanding implementation-related tasks to confront States Parties to the Convention.

The Technical Secretariat has been confronted with critical discrepancies identified in the aggregate national data on the transfers of Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 chemicals declared by States Parties.

A large proportion of the declared transfers could not be reconciled on the basis of data provided by the importing and exporting States Parties. The States Parties and the Secretariat have discussed possible causes for these discrepancies, which include, inter alia, material in transit, differences in national regulations, different data collection methods, and clerical errors. Essentially, these differences also reflect to an extent the non-uniform implementation of the Convention at the national level. It is important for the credibility of the regime that States Parties improve the cooperation between their National Authorities, and that they agree on, and apply, similar rules and standards for collecting and reporting data.

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Provisions on Transfers of Schedule 3 Chemicals to States not Party to the CWC

Decision (C-VI/DEC/10)

Recalling the decision of the Conference of the States Parties (hereinafter the “Conference”) at its Fifth Session on the implementation of restrictions on transfers of Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 chemicals to and from States not party to the Convention (C-V/DEC.16, dated 17 May 2000);

Recalling further the decision of the Conference at its Fifth Session on national implementation measures (C-V/DEC.20, dated 19 May 2000);

Recalling in particular the decision by the Executive Council (hereinafter the “Council) at its Twelfth Meeting to refer to the Conference, at its Sixth Session, its recommendation for approval of the provisions on transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention (EC-M-XII/DEC.1, dated 4 May 2001);

Bearing in mind the special responsibility of States Parties with regard to transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention, and recalling in this respect the obligation under paragraph 26 of Part VIII of the Verification Annex, to adopt the necessary measures to ensure that the transferred chemicals shall only be used for purposes not prohibited under this Convention;

Recalling further that, in accordance with paragraph 27 of Part VIII of the Verification Annex, five years after the entry into force of the Convention, i.e. by 29 April 2002, the Conference shall consider the need to establish other measures regarding transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention;

Considering the effective contribution of such measures to preventing the proliferation of chemical weapons and promoting universal adherence to the Convention;

Hereby:

1. Calls to the attention of States Parties their obligation, when transferring Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention, to require from the recipient State an end-use certificate in accordance with paragraph 26 of Part VIII of the Verification Annex and with Conference decisions C-III/DEC.6 and C-III/DEC.7, both dated 17 November 1998;

2. Decides, with regard to the application of the obligation to require an end-use certificate for transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention, and without prejudice to the right of any State Party to adopt a more restrictive approach, that end-use certificates are not required for:

   (i) products containing 30 percent or less of a Schedule 3 chemical;

  (ii) products identified as consumer goods packaged for retail sale for personal use, or      packaged for individual use;

3. Urges States Parties to adopt national legislative and administrative measures, as appropriate, to implement the provisions on transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention, and, in accordance with paragraph 5 of Article VII of the Convention, to inform the Organisation concerning the measures taken;

4. Requests the Technical Secretariat to include in its regular reports on the implementation of the Convention the information provided by States Parties on the implementation of paragraph 26 of Part VIII of the Verification Annex on transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention;

5. Requests the Council to consider the need to establish other measures regarding transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals under paragraph 27 of Part VIII of the Verification Annex and to report the results of its consideration to the Conference at its Seventh Session; and

6. Recommends that five years after the implementation of this decision the concentration limits contained in operative paragraph 2 above may be reviewed upon a recommendation of the Council.

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Implementation of Restrictions on Transfers of Schedule 2 and 3 Chemicals to and from States not Party to the CWC

Decision (C-V/DEC/16)

Implementation of Restrictions on transfers of Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 chemicals to and from states not party to the convention

Recalling the decision of the Conference of the States Parties at its Fourth Session on guidelines for provisions regarding scheduled chemicals in low concentrations, including in mixtures, in accordance with paragraphs 5 of Parts VII and VIII of the Verification Annex (C-IV/DEC.16, dated 1 July 1999);

Bearing in mind the special responsibility of States Parties with regard to transfers of Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 chemicals to States not party to the Convention, and recalling in this respect the obligation under paragraph 31 of Part VII of the Verification Annex, which came into effect on 29 April 2000, that Schedule 2 chemicals shall only be transferred to or received from States Parties;

Recalling further that, with regard to transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals, five years after the entry into force of the Convention (29 April 2002) the Conference shall consider the need to establish other measures;

Recognising the need to ensure that the transfer provisions regarding Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 chemicals do not encompass impurities and consumer goods;

Noting that transfers of the products under consideration in this decision shall only be for purposes not prohibited under the Convention, and recognising the desire of States Parties in relation to this decision, to keep under review technical and possible security aspects of transfers of products as defined in the operative subparagraphs 1(a) and (b) below;

Noting further the recommendation to the Conference adopted by the Executive Council at its Nineteenth Session (EC-XIX/DEC.11, dated 2 May 2000);

Hereby:

1. Decides that, with regard to the application of the provisions on transfers of Schedule 2 chemicals to and from States not party to the Convention, paragraph 31 of Part VII of the Verification Annex shall not apply to:

    (a) products containing one percent or less of a Schedule 2A or 2A* chemical;

    (b) products containing 10 percent or less of a Schedule 2B chemical; and

   (c) products identified as consumer goods packaged for retail sale for personal use            or packaged for individual use; and

2. Further requests, with regard to the application of the provisions on transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals, the Executive Council to prepare a recommendation to be considered by the Conference at its Sixth Session.

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Did You Know?

The Convention monitors the production, processing, consumption, and the international transfer of toxic chemicals, which can be converted into or used to produce chemical weapons.

The majority of these chemicals are dual-use compounds, i.e. they have legitimate commercial applications.