Trade controls on military goods for trade fairs and exhibitions
Exporting military goods for exhibition or demonstration, categories of goods, guidance and trade controls.
The Export Control Organisation (ECO), part of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) controls the export of strategic goods and technology, including all items specially designed or modified for military use, and many types of paramilitary goods.
The controls also encompass certain UK involvement in movements of these goods between overseas countries, even if only intended to be on a temporary basis rather than permanent shipments. This includes goods being exported for exhibition or demonstration purposes.
This guide briefly explains the impact of the trade controls on military goods for exhibitions and trade fairs in the UK and overseas, and should be read in conjunction with other guides on this site about trade controls.
Extent of the trade controls and their impact on trade fairs and exhibitions
It is important to know what trade controls are and whether they affect your business.
What are trade controls?
The UK’s trade control legislation affects anyone in the UK regardless of nationality and in some cases, UK persons based overseas.
Trade controls licence the trading and transacting in controlled goods between two overseas countries - where the deal is made in the UK or by a UK person based overseas. The controls are intended to impact on ‘trafficking and brokering’ type activities that facilitate the movement of controlled military or paramilitary goods. Brokering can include a range of activities, eg negotiating, arranging or facilitating the transfer of military goods.
The legislation originates from the Export Control Act 2002 and the Export Control Order 2008 - which is secondary legislation under the Act that came into force on 6 April 2009. Under this legislation, controls on trade or ‘trafficking and brokering’ of military goods are structured on a three-tier category basis - Categories A, B and C.
You should be aware that, for the purposes of this legislation, the Channel Islands do not count as being part of the UK. As a result, any deals involving the supply of controlled military goods from or to the Channel Islands, both to or from another non-UK part of the world will also be licensable.
For further information on export and trade control legislation more broadly, read about an overview of export control legislation.
Find further detail on exactly which goods are controlled under each category of the trade controls, in the guide on trafficking and brokering (trade controls).
Trade controls and trade fairs
The provisions on ‘trafficking and brokering’ potentially make some of the commercial activities involving military goods at trade fairs (whether in the UK or overseas) a licensable activity. This means that a trade control licence might be required from the ECO.
The controls impact on:
- international companies participating in UK exhibitions
- any UK firms who have significant non-UK business interests, such as overseas parent companies, sister companies, suppliers, or subsidiaries which will be represented on their exhibition stand.
The main impact on trade fairs concerns:
- goods which fall under Category A of the trade controls
- any goods on the UK Military List to embargoed destinations - which are also controlled extra-territorially, outside of the UK
General advertising and promotion of Category B and Category C goods are exempt from the controls and therefore such activities are not controlled at trade fairs.
To access a current copy of the UK Military LIst, you should access the guide about the UK Strategic Export Control Lists and download the current list version.
Details of the trade control categorisations can be found in the guide about trafficking and brokering (trade controls).
The trade controls do not apply to exports from, or imports into, the UK, although import and export licences issued by the ECO may be required for goods entering and leaving the UK because of trade fairs.
For more information about types of licences issued by the ECO, see the guide on licences: export, trade control and transhipment.
Activities at trade fairs and exhibitions that fall within scope of the trade controls
There are certain activities which are likely to impact on trade fairs and exhibitions of military goods, because of trade controls.
Controls on Category A goods
Category A is one of the three tiers of goods categorised under the trade controls legislation and administered by the ECO. Controls on Category A goods are the main area of impact, under trade control legislation, for those involved in trade fairs and exhibitions. There is an exemption of general advertising and promotion of Category B and Category C goods under the trade controls.
The controls on Category A goods cover ‘any act calculated to promote’ the movement of such goods with no exemption for general advertising or promotion. The controls are extra-territorial, and so apply to UK persons overseas.
Items currently listed as being controlled under Category A of the trade controls include:
- goods designed for the execution of human beings - such as gallows and guillotines, electric chairs, air-tight vaults designed for the purpose of execution by the administration of a lethal gas or substances, automatic drug injection systems designed for the purpose of executing human beings by the administration of a lethal chemical substance
- restraints specially designed for restraining human beings - leg-irons, gangchains, shackles and individual cuffs or shackle bracelets except those that are ‘ordinary handcuffs’ (handcuffs which have an overall dimension including chain, measured from the outer edge of one cuff to the outer edge of the other cuff, between 150 millimetres and 240 millimetres when locked and have not been modified to cause physical pain or suffering), restraint chairs unless designed for disabled persons, shackle board, thumb-cuffs and thumb-screws, including serrated thumb-cuffs, electric shock belts
- portable devices designed or modified for the purpose of riot control or self-protection by the administration of an electric shock - such as electric-shock batons, electric-shock shields, stun-guns and electric-shock dart-guns - components specially designed or modified for the aforementioned
- hand-held, spiked batons
- cluster munitions, explosive submunitions and explosive bomblets
The controls on Category A goods do not exempt general advertising or promotion, even the act of distributing brochures or marketing these products.
As a result any of these activities would require a licence if the goods were to be sourced from outside the UK and supplied to a third country.
Goods going to embargoed destinations
The supply of any goods on the UK Military List to embargoed destinations is also controlled extraterritorially. These controls also apply to trade fairs and exhibitions.
The UK Military List is the list of controlled goods which have been specially designed or modified for military use. The list is administered by ECO and is derived from international treaties and agreements on goods which require licences for export or trade control purposes. It forms a part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.
The current list of destinations subject to arms embargoes is available in the guide on current arms embargoes and other restrictions.
This includes all destinations currently under full scope of the EU, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and UK national arms embargoes as listed in Part 1 or 2 of Schedule 4 of the Export Control Order 2008 or under United Nations sanctions and implementing UK Orders.
Trade control licences for activities at trade fairs and exhibitions
It is important to know when you need a trade control licence for trade fairs and exhibitions involving military goods and what different licences are available.
When do I need a trade control licence for trade fairs or exhibitions?
There are some points to remember, including that:
- UK trade controls only apply to activities concerning military, para-military goods or goods identified as being used for torture and execution
- promoting exports from the UK does not require a trade licence
- basic marketing and promotion - such as displaying goods at trade fairs or advertising them in periodicals - are not controlled activities except for Category A goods or where goods are destined for an embargoed destination
- a UK person at a trade fair or exhibition overseas may require a trade control licence if Category A or Category B goods are involved or the potential end user is in an embargoed destination
- to use an Open General Trade Control Licence (OGTCL), you will need to register for the appropriate licence via the SPIRE website. .
What trade control licences are available?
Many of the activities at exhibitions and trade fairs that fall within the scope of the trade controls may be licensable under the ECO’s open licensing system. In particular, trading in goods that come under Category A of the trade controls might fall within the coverage of an OGTCL. These licences require pre-registration and can only be used if you meet all the specified terms and conditions. For information about these licences, see the guide on Open General Trade Control Licences.
For trading activities not covered by the OGTCLs - for instance where the source or destination countries are not permitted by the OGTCLs - you should apply for an individual licence. This might be in the form of either a Single Individual Trade Control Licence (SITCL) or an Open Individual Trade Control Licence (OITCL). For more information about these two licence categories see the guide on trade control licences for brokering.
When making a licence application, please ensure that you give as much notice as possible prior to any licensable activity. You must also include as much detail as possible of the proposed activity, equipment and transaction details together with relevant technical specifications and end-user documentation.
Individuals and companies can either register for the OGTCLs or apply for a SITCL or OITCL using SPIRE, the ECO’s electronic licensing system.
Other points to note
It must be emphasized that the trade controls do not impact on intended exports of military goods from the UK - which are controlled separately by export control legislation.
Trade controls only affect potential deals involving the movement of military goods between one third country and another. This will have an impact on overseas companies participating in UK exhibitions, as well as any UK firms who have significant non-UK business interests - such as, overseas parent companies, sister companies, suppliers or subsidiaries that might be represented on an exhibition stand.
All exhibitors and visitors must ensure that they have all necessary trade control licences in place before undertaking any controlled business or activity, in line with their statutory legal requirements under Part 4 of the Export Control Order 2008.
For more information and to access a copy of the legislation, see the guide on the Export Control Order 2008.
BIS ECO Helpline 020 7215 4594
Published: 14 August 2012
Related guides: Trade controls (trafficking and brokering) Do I need an export licence? Open General Trade Control Licences Overview of export control legislation Trade Control Licences for brokering UK Strategic Export Control Lists Current arms embargoes and other restrictions Extraterritorial Trade Controls Brokering (trade) of dual-use items