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Lithuania complains of trade "sanctions" from China after row with Taiwan

Lithuania complains of trade “sanctions” from China after row with Taiwan

Lithuania said on Friday that China had banned all imports from the Baltic states, escalating a diplomatic row over relations with Taiwan.

Vilnius said Beijing removed it from the list of countries of origin, which means goods cannot be cleared through customs, and rejected all import requests.

Beijing worsened diplomatic relations with Lithuania and suspended consular services after the country allowed the opening of a Taiwanese embassy in November.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory.

Gabrielos Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, condemned the “unannounced sanctions” on Friday and said Lithuania would seek help from the European Commission. “It is unprecedented when a member state of the European Union is subjected to partial sanctions,” he said.

The country exported 300 million euros worth of goods to China in 2020, accounting for less than 1 percent of its total exports.

“We have been informed that Lithuanian shipments are not processed through Chinese customs and import requests are being rejected. We are in contact with Vilnius and the EU delegation in Beijing to gather all possible information and clarify the situation,” the commission added.

This step comes days before Brussels proposed a law allowing it to respond to such economic sanctions.

The Anti-pressure toolThe European Commission is set to agree on Wednesday to allow the European Union to respond more quickly to US and anti-trade measures with Cuba and Iran.

However, they face opposition from many EU members, who fear this would violate international rules and harm global trade. The 27 members of the European Union and the European Parliament must comply with the law before it comes into force.

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Estonia and Japan raised public objections, along with trade lobbies in Denmark and Sweden. Diplomats said their governments were also skeptical.

Tokyo said the instrument could violate World Trade Organization rules, a concern shared by some EU capitals.

“Deterrence/countermeasures per se may contravene the WTO agreement as a unilateral prohibited measure,” Tokyo said The European Union will consult on the proposal in March.

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In its report, Estonia requested “that the proposed instrument be fully compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organization”. “The cornerstone of EU trade policy is its compatibility with the rules-based multilateral trading system embodied in the rules of the World Trade Organization.”

EU diplomats said Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Italy and the Czech Republic were concerned.

“It is not clear to us that the problem is large enough to justify the proposal,” Sweden said in a letter to the committee seen by the Financial Times. “If this tool is implemented, it is likely to have a significant economic impact on trade, business and relations between the European Union and other countries.”

The Global Times, China’s state media outlet, said in an article on Friday that Lithuania was “dancing” with the United States and making inappropriate statements about Taiwan. She said Beijing had no choice but to reduce Lithuania’s diplomatic status and that Vilnius should “bear all the consequences”.

More news from Eleanor Olcott in London