A Definition of Commodities

By nature, a workable definition of a commodity must be somewhat arbitrary. The following is one possible approach to identifying item-groups that are commodities.

The item-group must involve the following:

  • Large* sales.

  • Sufficiently low cost to be affordable by the general public.

  • Breadth of civilian applications (e.g., a number of interchangeable uses for the items in the group).

  • Widespread availability to the public at a large number of sales locations.


The term large is sector specific. In the case of computers, the computer subpanel has recommended sales of at least 1 million units in cumulative worldwide production (for devices) or at least $100 million in cumulative worldwide sales (for materials). See the computer subpanel's report in Appendix C for further discussion of commodities in regard to computers and software.

policy guidelines on the attributes of an acceptable end-use control system. In addition, if end-use arrangements are approved for specific classes of items (e.g., software and data), CoCom will have to develop** descriptions of specific strategies that have proved to be acceptable. Although following a previously successful strategy in an application for approval of an end-use arrangement might speed CoCom approval, it should be explicitly stated that following such a strategy is not a requirement for approval. Exporters should always be free to innovate and to propose alternative strategies. To ensure that CoCom's criteria for judging the acceptability of proposed end-use controls do not become outdated by rapidly evolving political realities, the United States should urge CoCom to reconsider and revise its end-use control guidelines on a regular basis.


Or revise in light of accumulating experience.

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