26th Aug 2019

US not to sanction Europe arms sales to China

The US House of Representatives voted down a proposal to allow the White House to sanction European companies selling arms to China, in a surprise shift influenced by pressure from the business lobby prior to the vote on Thursday (14 July).

Opponents of the bill had suggested that more controls on arms exports would cause additional losses of jobs in the US, media reported.

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The legislation was supposed to push Europe to change its plan to suspend the EU arms embargo on Beijing.

But while it was mainly aimed at sanctioning EU companies, it would have required the US president to report annually on all international firms supplying weapons to China and national governments that agree to it.

Such companies could then have been denied US weapons technology on national security grounds in future.

Washington strongly opposes the EU's plan to replace the Chinese embargo with a code of conduct on arms sales.

The House of Representatives supported a non-binding declaration earlier this year, urging Europeans to "reconsider this unwise course of action", as it did not correspond with trans-atlantic cooperation on security.

The EU imposed the arms embargo after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 but has recently considered lifting it - mainly due to pressure from France and Germany.

Critics of the move refer to China's serious breaches of human rights and an "anti-secession law" providing the legal basis for an attack on Taiwan if the island declares independence.

The latest attempt by Brussels and Beijing to agree on the conditions for the lifting of the embargo failed because of China's refusal to accept any link between the arms trade and EU human rights-related demands.

The 25-member bloc is expected to discuss the matter at some point after the summer, with the UK - Washington's key ally - presiding over European decision-making.

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