Jan. 27 (UPI) — The European Union stepped into China’s controversy with Lithuania on Thursday, announcing that it’s taking the Asian nation to the World Trade Organization over discriminatory trade practices involving Taiwan.
Last August, China recalled its top diplomatic envoy to Lithuania and demanded that Vilnius summon back Lithuania’s ambassador from Beijing in response to a Lithuanian decision to deepen ties with Taiwan. China sees Taiwan as its province while Taiwan sees itself as an independent state.
Beijing began to restrict or block imports from and exports to Lithuania or linked to Lithuania in December — and said Lithuania’s moves in favor of Taiwan violated “the spirit of the communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Lithuania.”
Thursday, the European Union accused China of discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania, which harms the bloc’s single market. Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004.
“These actions, which appear to be discriminatory and illegal under WTO rules, are harming exporters both in Lithuania and elsewhere in the EU, as they also target products with Lithuanian content exported from other EU countries,” the EU said in a statement.
“As attempts to resolve this bilaterally have failed, the EU has resorted to initiating dispute settlement proceedings against China.”
Valdis Dombrovskis, EU executive vice president and commissioner for trade, said the alliance took the action after repeated attempts to resolve issues through diplomacy failed.
“We see no other way forward than to request WTO dispute settlement consultations with China,” Dombrovskis said in a statement. “The EU is determined to act as one and act fast against measures in breach of WTO rules, which threaten the integrity of our single market. We are in parallel pursuing our diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.”
The EU said it will formally ask Beijing for more information in its action against Lithuania as a next step.