01/23/12 Paper - Encouraging Argentina and Brazil To Promote Global Partnership Objectives

Washington, DC

Latin America: Encouraging Argentina and Brazil to Jointly Promote Greater Awareness Raising on Biorisks and GP Objectives Against the Proliferation of WMD[1]


Prepared by


Prof. Maurizio Martellini, IWG-LNCV and University of Insubria, Como, Italy

Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, IWG and Former Director General OPCW, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ambassador Marcos Castrioto de Azambuja, IWG and Brazilian Centre for International Relations, (CEBRI), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

January 2012

I. Summary

1. Argentina and Brazil have a good record of cooperation in the non-proliferation sphere and have consistently supported international efforts against the proliferation of biological weapons. However, there is no visible engagement on their part in cooperating in identifying biorisks as an evolving security concern and of actively promoting a greater awareness among their relevant industries, scientific communities and academia of the dangers involved in the legitimate research and development of dual-use agents and technologies.

2. In this paper it is proposed that the G8 Global Partnership (GP) encourages the Governments of Argentina and Brazil to further develop their fruitful cooperation against the proliferation of WMD by jointly addressing the question of biorisks, through a bilateral mechanism and an awareness raising program specially tailored to their industrial, scientific, and academia establishments. The rest of MERCOSUR and other States in South America could later be invited to join the understanding.

3. The joint initiative would build on the success the bilateral nuclear agency - ABACC[1] - and, with the support of the GP, could become a true model for other parts of the world where biosecurity and dual issues arise. Over time, the initiative could conceivably evolve closer to the ABACC model.

II. Background

1. Argentina and Brazil have a good track record in the area of non-proliferation. While their most notable achievement is probably the creation in 1991 of the ABACC, both countries have also been active in the chemical and biological fields. Thus:

a. Aside from having signed the so-called Mendoza Declaration[2], both countries are original parties to the BTWC and the CWC and have faithfully implemented the obligations enshrined therein, including those related to the adoption of the internal legislative and administrative measures necessary to effectively implement the two global treaties[3].

b. In the same vein, they have cooperated with the UNSC Resolution 1540 Committee, providing in timely fashion the required Reports and supporting the Committee´s outreach activities.

c. However, concerns have been expressed about what are seen as weaknesses in the respective systems[4]. These include an unsatisfactory implementation of the export control regimes, the growing impact of drug trafficking in the area and the continued potential interest of terrorism represented on the so-called Tri-Border Area - an expanse around the point where the territories of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet which is considered susceptible to the influence of international non-state actors.

2. ABACC, beyond being a successful bilateral verification regime and a potential model for other regions, represents an excellent example of how Argentina and Brazil have understood that their respective national interests are best promoted by cooperation and mutual transparency, rather than by competition and opacity in sensitive areas.

a. In that sense, ABACC is recognised as a cornerstone of the present harmonious relations between Buenos Aires and Brasilia and offers a unique platform from which to build further bilateral cooperation in the field of CBRN nonproliferation and risks mitigation.

b. The positive impact of ABACC has influenced not just the behaviour of successive governments in both countries, but also that of their nuclear and space industries, scientific and academic communities, which by and large extend considerable trust to each other.

3. In addition to their strong collaboration on non-proliferation, Argentina and Brazil enjoy, for over two decades now, a very close political and economic relation, formalised in the 1991 MERCOSUR (MERCOSUL) agreement, whereby they established a customs union. Paraguay and Uruguay are also original members[5].

a. In spite of many problems and setbacks, the association has not only substantially boosted commerce among its members but has helped also to create an internal current of considerable political harmony and teamwork.

b. Of particular interest to non-proliferation, export control regimes of MERCOSUR countries use for the most part a common framework.

c. In addition, MERCOSUR has created a Specialised Working Group on Illicit Traffic of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials.

4. Biotechnology is rapidly expanding in the two countries, with the backing of investment and favourable legislation.

a. This is particularly so in Brazil, where it enjoys good Governmental support. A study carried out by the Brazilian BIOMINAS Foundation in 2007 identified nearly 200 life science companies in the country, 40% of which were classified as biotechnology companies. More than one fourth of them were up to 2 years old (26.7%); while 2% to 9% have 2 to 5 years of activity, and 21% have been active for 5 to 10 years[6].

b. Argentina has the highest number of biotechnology companies per capita in Latin America and is a leader in GMO applications accounting for 17% of world GM crop area[7]. Official figures state that there are more than 80 companies dedicated to biotechnology, and the Government has declared that this is one of the central points of its strategy of scientific and productive developments[8].

c. The pharmaceutical industry in particular, is long-established and significant in both nations[9], where some well-established public health biolabs and research facilities regularly deal with dangerous pathogens.

d. The two countries show a good level of biosafety awareness and protocols on the part of industry and of regulations and administrative structures at State level.

e. Brazil has a concrete program - PRONABENS[10] - jointly developed by the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT) and the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN), aimed, both, at interacting directly with industries, research centres, academia and governmental Bodies, that carry activities related to sensitive and/or dual use assets and technologies and at promoting better information and awareness among them:

i. PRONABENS has placed a special focus on the BTWC.

ii. In such context it has conducted visits to research institutions, universities, laboratories, public health laboratories, crop dusting companies, banks of microorganisms, bio industries, etc.

iii. It has also published the Brazilian List of Sensitive Items and promoted the creation of an Inter-ministerial Working Group on biosecurity[11]

f. In the two South American nations there is a certain lack of notion about any immediacy of biorisks – or, in fact, of terrorism in general. As a consequence, the concept of biosecurity is more related to traditional interpretations of laboratory biosafety and/or GMOs regulations, than to the prevention of malign conducts[12].

5. All in all, while Argentina and Brazil show a strong commitment on nonproliferation and Brazil has implemented a specific program to outreach to the private sector and promote awareness of the BTWC provisions, in neither of the two countries ithere is a visible governmental engagement to promote the recognition by their industries and scientific and academic communities of the evolving security concerns represented by the life science developments.

III. Proposed Actions

1. Based on the above, and in the light of its interest in extending its nonproliferation work to other regions, including Latin America, it is proposed that the G8 Global Partnership encourages the Governments of Argentina and Brazil to further develop their fruitful cooperation against the proliferation of WMD by jointly addressing the question of biorisks and promoting awareness on biorisks and dual use issues among scientific communities.

2. Ideally, this would be done in a fairly structured fashion, through a special “ad hoc” bilateral mechanism and an education & awareness program specially tailored to their industrial, scientific and academia establishments.

3. The initiative would build on the success of ABACC and, with the support of the GP, could become a true model for other parts of the world where bio and dual use security concerns arise.

4. The mechanism could benefit of the experience of national programs like PRONABENS, and move to the establishment of a common similar structure or agency on a bilateral basis.

5. In due course and once the arrangement is functioning and has proven its appropriateness for the set goal, the rest of MERCOSUR and other States in South America could be invited to join these initiative and efforts.

6. Argentina and Brazil could also set a joint Biosecurity Centre of Excellence for promoting common standards/guidelines, best practices and codes of conduct on managing the dual use and security issues in the life sciences; improved (and harmonized) export control regime for dual use items; enhance education and awareness in the life sciences on the relevant security issues, and the collection of feedbacks from science communities on governmental policies and regulations; and foster the bilateral and global exchanges, cooperation and transparency on biotechnology

7. Over time, the above voluntary initiatives could conceivably evolve closer to an ABACC-like model for bio risks mitigation efforts.

8. Last, but not least, Argentina and Brazil should move to consider to become members of the Global Partnership process.

[1] This paper has been prepared by the Executive Secretariat of the International Working Group (IWG). The opinions or recommendations expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent the views of the governmental organizations providing support for the research. This paper has been produced under the support to the IWG activities by the IWG funding members.


[1]The Argentine-Brazilian Agency for the Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, created in 1991, which regularly inspects both countries´ declared nuclear installations and is a party to their comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA (the so-called Quad Agreement, signed also in 1991). This unique bilateral verification mechanism in the nuclear field has been generally considered a success and a good precedent for other regions of the world.

[2] Signed 5 December 1991 by Argentina, Brazil and Chile. In this Ministerial Declaration the three parties concerned declared their “total commitment not to develop, produce or acquire in any way, stockpile or retain, transfer directly or indirectly, and not to use chemical or biological arms”

[3] These include well-honed regulatory systems. In the case of Argentina, Presidential Decree 603, of 9 April 1992, established a very strict sensitive export control regime, created a National Commission for the Control of Sensitive Exports and War Material and established and automatic correlation with the list of chemical and biological agents identified by the Australia Group. In the case of Brazil, Law 1912/95 established the export controls applicable to strategic commodities; the Ministry of Science and Technology is the National Authority for the BTWC and CWC and nonproliferation export-related control regimes.

[4] See for example “1540 Database – The Americas – Regional Overview – Updated April 2011”; The Nuclear Threat Initiative, NTI Research Library.

[5] Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have associate member status and Venezuela has a membership agreement – which however has yet to gain the endorsement of Paraguay before it can be implemented.

[6] For a summary of Brazil´s biotechnology development in recent years, see “Biotechnologies in Brazil

[7] Subsecretaría de Desarrollo de Inversionas, Ministerio de Economía y Finanzas, Buenos Aires, 12 November 2009.

[8] Argentina en Noticias, Buenos Aires, November 2008.

[9] The pharmaceuticals industry began developing in bothcountries at the end of the XIX Century. Bayer set its first aspirin press in Argentina in 1912. Research in life-sciences has also a long tradition: two Argentine scientists - Bernardo Houssay and Luis Leloir - were awarded Nobel prizes in 1947 (physiology) and 1970 (chemistry) respectively.

[10] Brazilian National Program for the promotion of dialogue between the Private Sector and the Government in matters related to Sensitive Assets, created in 2004.

[11] Presentation by Luciana Leao, member of the Coordination-General on Sensitive Items, Ministry of Science and Technology of Brazil, at the X International Export Control Conference, Istanbul, June 2009

[12] The Spanish language encourages the symbiosis by proposing only one word (“bioseguridad”) for “biosafety” and “biosecurity”- This is not the case in Portuguese, which provides for the words “Biosseguridade” and “Biossegurança”

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