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EU challenges China at WTO over trade restrictions on Lithuania

EU challenges China at WTO over trade restrictions on Lithuania

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BRUSSELS — The European Union on Thursday launched a challenge to the World Trade Organization accusing China of discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania that it says threaten the integrity of the EU’s single market.

China has downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and pressured multinationals to sever ties with the Baltic nation of 2.8 million people after allowing Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius.

China, which said the dispute was political rather than economic and called Lithuania’s actions an attempt to “hijack” EU-Beijing relations, considers the self-governing island of Taiwan its own territory.

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The European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said in a statement that China’s actions were hurting exporters in Lithuania and elsewhere in the 27-nation bloc.

Restrictions include the refusal to clear Lithuanian goods by Chinese customs, the rejection of import applications from Lithuania and pressure on EU companies to remove Lithuanian content from supply chains during export to China, the Commission said.

He said Chinese customs statistics showed a 91% decline in Lithuania’s trade with China in December compared to the same month in 2020, with the most affected sectors being pharmaceuticals, lasers, electronics and electronics. ‘food.

The EU executive said the actions appeared illegal under WTO rules and attempts to resolve them bilaterally had failed.

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“The EU is determined to act together and act swiftly against measures… which threaten the integrity of our single market,” said EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. Diplomatic efforts are also continuing, he added.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing acted in accordance with WTO rules.

WTO challenges begin with a formal 60-day consultation period between the parties. If they do not resolve the dispute, the EU can request that a WTO panel rule on the matter. The WTO usually takes years to resolve disputes.

Dombrovskis told reporters the EU was trying to find an amicable solution during the consultation period.

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said it had produced “strong evidence of systematic violations of international trade rules” by China for the WTO challenge.

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“Lithuania hopes that China will agree to join the consultations with the EU and that they will succeed not only in resolving existing trade disruptions, but also in securing long-term sustainable solutions,” the ministry said in a statement.

Lithuanian officials are discussing whether to ask Taiwan to change the Chinese translation of the name of its representative office, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday https://www.Reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/lithuania- considers-modifying-taiwan-representation-name-defuse-line-with-china-2022-01-25.

Asked about this, Dombrovskis said: “There may be diplomatic solutions, and also on the EU side we are facilitating and trying to resolve this dispute amicably.”

Taiwan said it had not received a name change request. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing, Francesco Guarascio and Benoit Van Overstraeten in Brussels and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Mark Heinrich)

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