In light of the end of the Cold War, members of the former COCOM export control regime recognized that COCOM’s East-West focus was no longer the appropriate basis for export controls. There was a need to establish a new arrangement to deal with risks to regional and international security and stability related to the spread of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies. Accordingly, on the 16th of November 1993, in The Hague, at a High Level Meeting (HLM), representatives of the 17 COCOM member states agreed to terminate COCOM, and establish a new multilateral arrangement, temporarily known as the “New Forum”.

This decision was confirmed at a further HLM in Wassenaar, Netherlands on 29-30 March 1994. COCOM ceased to exist March 31, 1994. Participating States also agreed to continue the use of the COCOM control lists as a basis for global export controls on a national level until the new arrangement could be established. At this time the former COCOM cooperating countries, namely, Austria, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland, were included as participating states in the “New Forum”. With the objective of starting a new arrangement as soon as possible, three Working Groups were established. Working Group 1 was mandated to develop goals, rules and procedures for the new arrangement. Working Group 2 was tasked with developing the lists of goods and technologies that would be controlled, while the third Working Group was tasked to deal with administrative matters.

The Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and the Slovak Republic were welcomed as participating states at the High Level Meeting held on 11-12 September 1995 in Wassenaar. With this major milestone accomplished, the Working Groups were urged to expedite their work.

Agreement to establish the “Wassenaar Arrangement” was reached at the HLM held on 19 December 1995, again in Wassenaar and this was announced with a declaration issued at the Peace Palace in The Hague. At this time there was also agreement to locate the Secretariat in Vienna and establish a Preparatory Committee of the Whole to prepare for the first plenary meeting.

The inaugural Plenary Meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement was held 2-3 April 1996 in Vienna, Austria. Argentina, the Republic of Korea and Romania were welcomed as additional founding members. Consensus could not be reached on all issues, so the meeting was suspended to provide time to resolve the outstanding issues.

On 11-12 July 1996, the Plenary Meeting resumed, with Bulgaria and Ukraine participating, to make a total of 33 founding members. Final consensus on the “Initial Elements”, the basic document of the WA, was reached and it was established that the new Control Lists and Information Exchange would be implemented from 1 November 1996. The first Plenary Meeting of the now operational Wassenaar Arrangement was held on 12-13 December 1996 in Vienna.