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Export Controls Policy

The United States uses export controls to protect national security interests and promote our foreign policy objectives.  We participate in the four major multilateral export control regimes: the Australia Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement.  These regimes are designed to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and destabilizing accumulations of conventional weapons and dual-use technologies. The regimes underpin the United States’ legal and regulatory export control system.

The State Department’s Conventional Arms Threat Reduction (CATR) office leads efforts to prevent the proliferation of destabilizing conventional weapons and advanced technologies, including through interdiction efforts and by leading U.S. participation in the Wassenaar Arrangement. CATR also leads on export controls policy to protect dual-use goods—these include items related to semiconductors, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence, among other sensitive technologies—and prevent their use in ways that harm our national security or are contrary to our foreign policy objectives.

In recent years, export controls have come to forefront of U.S. foreign policy.  The State Department has imposed numerous export controls on Russia’s defense and other sectors in response to its invasion of Ukraine, which has severely restricted Moscow’s access to technologies used to wage war. Additionally, the United States has leveraged export controls to address national security concerns posed by the People’s Republic of China, including by implementing controls on the sale of advanced semiconductors with military capabilities to the PRC.

Export Controls and Human Rights

The State Department also employs export controls to prevent state and non-state actors from using goods and technologies to abuse human rights.  The United States participates in the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative, launched at the first Summit for Democracy. During the Year of Action following the first Summit, the United States led an effort to establish a voluntary, nonbinding code of conduct outlining political commitments by Subscribing States to apply export controls to prevent the proliferation of goods and technologies that enable serious human rights abuses.

Export Controls in the U.S. Interagency

The State Department coordinates closely with other U.S. government agencies—including the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy—to formulate and implement export control policy. The State Department and its relevant interagency counterparts review export license applications concerning goods and technologies that can facilitate the proliferation of WMD, advanced conventional weapons, and dual-use technologies. The State Department also participates in interagency groups, including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the Operating Committee, and the Arms Control Export Policy Committee, through which the U.S. government agencies deliberate over and devise export control policies.

Examples of notable recent export controls actions include:

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future