What are Export Controls?
Export Controls are restrictions imposed on the transfer of items from one country to another by any individual, company, government or public body. These controls are imposed to control the risks associated with exporting certain goods to certain countries. By managing trade in this way, we can help to prevent certain goods and technologies from falling into countries with embargoes imposed. An 'embargo' is an order imposed by the government that restricts trade with specific countries. They're usually created following unfavourable political or economic circumstances between nations.
Why do we have export controls?
The government developed export controls in order to address concerns about internal repression, regional instability and other human rights violations. By controlling the exportation of certain items, these measures also control risks associated with the development of weapons of mass destruction. Every country should have some form of export control policy and legislation.
Embargoes and export licences are examples of export controls for dual use items. Dual use items are goods, software or technology which can be used for both civil and military applications. If such items were accidentally transferred to a country with an embargo imposed, they may be used to develop weapons of mass destruction. Companies wishing to export dual-use items are banned from transferring them to countries with embargoes imposed, and they must obtain an export licence to ship them to any other country.
Do you need an export licence?
It's important that exporters consider their responsibilities towards taking effective export control measures. You need to ensure that you implement and endorse solid export control systems. This involves providing adequate training for employees and keep full and accurate records. It's also your responsibility to check whether you need an export licence to trade lawfully and safely.
There are various factors to consider that will help you to determine whether you need an export licence for your goods. For example, by evaluating the nature of your goods, you'll be able to assess whether an export licence is necessary. If any of your items have been specifically designed or modified for military use, it's likely that you will need a licence. If you're unsure about the nature of your goods, it's worth checking the UK Strategic Export Control Lists, which outline the items that require a licence from the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).
Whether or not you need a licence is also determined by where you're planning to export your items to. Less sensitive items don't require a licence if you're exporting to countries in the European Union (EU). If your goods are on the UK Military List or are within the more sensitive categories on the EU Dual Use List, then a licence is required for exportations to all counties. It's also vital that you check whether the country has any embargoes imposed.
Even if your items aren't listed on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists, they may require a licence because of their end-use. If an item has the potential to be used in the development of weapons of mass destruction, you will need an export licence.
Types of export licences
There are different types of licences for exportation. For less restricted exports to less restricted destinations, you can apply for an Open General Export Licence (OGEL). These are pre-published licences with set terms and conditions and there are currently over 40 of them available for different types of dual use items. However, OGELs don't cover every type of goods, technology or software, or every destination. You may need to apply for a Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL), which are company-specific for a specific set quantity or value of goods. There are also Open Individual Export Licences (OIEL), which cover long term contracts, projects and repeat business. These licences are company-specific and there's no set quantity of value of goods.
When applying for any type of licence, you can refer to the UK Strategic Export Control Lists to find your item's classification, which will help you with your application. You can apply for an export licence electronically using the ECJU's online system, SPIRE. It's important to bear in mind that the ECJU only covers strategic items. There are different licences required for other restricted goods such as arts, antiques or medicines.
Why are export controls important?
It's very important to take export controls seriously and actively engage with implementing the appropriate measures and adhering to regulations. If dangerous goods such as dual use items fall into the wrong hands, they can be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. This compromises national security and safety. If your business is found guilty of failing to comply with the relevant export control regulations, you could be fined or even face significant prison sentences.