British Opposition Leader: China Arms Embargo Must Stay
Michael Howard (Leader of the Conservative Party) and Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times) and Michael Jay (Chatham House)
The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, arrived in China on Monday for an official visit and raised the issue of lifting the European Union's arms embargo on China. The ban was imposed after Beijing brutally suppressed the June 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Recently, some EU leaders, including Chancellor Schroeder, have indicated that they want the restrictions lifted. Michael Howard, the leader of Britain's main opposition Conservative Party, believes the arms embargo should stay.
Michael Howard: I am firmly against Europe unilaterally lifting the embargo. It is quite clear and understandable that for strategic reasons America does not want to see US military technology being made available, however indirectly, to the PRC [People's Republic of China]. If Europe lifts the embargo, the US will simply cease to provide any EU country with that technology, which in Britain's case is vital to the effectiveness of our military and defence capabilities. For all these reasons I would oppose any moves by the European Union to lift the embargo on arms to China. And let us remember: this is an arms embargo – not a trade embargo.
Sean Curtin: You are against the lifting of an arms export embargo on China. What is your policy on exporting arms to Taiwan? The United States currently supplies military technology to Taiwan and this is a great source of friction between China and the US.
Michael Howard: Well, as far as I am aware the United Kingdom does not export arms to Taiwan. Besides, different considerations would apply to different circumstances.
Michael Jay: You have emphasized the difference between a trade embargo and an arms embargo. I would ask you, do you not have a moral duty to impose trade restrictions on regimes which abuse human rights and by not doing so are we not sacrificing moral principle on the alter of economic expediency.
Michael Howard: Well, I understand and respect that view. There are some extreme circumstances, preferably as a result of international agreement, where sanctions, including trade sanctions are justified. But, for the main part, I actually think trade is one of the most effective ways of dismantling barriers, opening up countries to the outside world, and improving human rights in those countries. I readily concede that it does not necessarily always happen overnight and it does take time. But other than in extreme circumstances, and as I say preferably as a result of international agreement on sanctions, I am in favour of trade. I think it does much more good than harm.
Michael Howard's complete comments on the arms embargo can be viewed here.
On the issue of US-UK relations, Mr. Howard made the following observations.
Michael Howard: The truth is that the United Kingdom and the United States have many interests and many values in common. It is certainly in the interest of the United Kingdom that we should work closely with the United States. It is in the interest of the United States that they work closely with the United Kingdom. I am absolutely confident that I would be able to very quickly establish a very close working relationship with President Bush [if I am elected Prime Minister].
The above comments were made at Chatham House in London on 17 November 2004
Profile Michael Howard
Michael was elected Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe in 1983. The following year he was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Solicitor General. In 1985 he entered the Government as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry with responsibility for corporate and consumer affairs.
In 1987, he moved to the Department of the Environment, first as Minister of State for Local Government and then as Minister of State for Water and Planning. In 1990, he entered the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Employment, abolishing the closed shop and playing a crucial role in negotiating the UK's opt-out from the Social Chapter at Maastricht.
Following the 1992 election, Michael was appointed Secretary of State for the Environment. In this position he played a major role in securing the participation of the United States at the Earth Summit in Rio, which he attended on behalf of the Government.
In May 1993, he became Home Secretary, a position he held for four years.
From 1997 to 1999, Michael served as Shadow Foreign Secretary. In September 2001, he was appointed Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. In November 2003, he was elected Leader of the Conservative Party and of Her Majesty's Opposition.
Michael was born in 1941 and educated at Llanelli Grammar School and Peterhouse, Cambridge. In 1962 he was elected President of the Cambridge Union. He was called to the Bar in 1964 and was appointed a QC in 1982.