The possibility of an EU-US trade war moved closer on 20 March when Condoleeza Rice told the EU to drop plans to relax its arms embargo on China.
The US secretary of state, currently on a tour of east Asia, has made it clear that the US regards itself as being the peacekeeper in the area and would look harshly on any European interference.
“It is the United States, not Europe, that has defended the Pacific,” she said.
At an EU-China summit in December 2004, the EU agreed to work towards lifting the arms embargo imposed on China in response to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. France and Germany in particular are in favour, arguing that China is a changed country. The US, however, fears that China would use European technology to build up its military capabilities, particularly in view of its threatening stance towards Taiwan’s moves to independence.