EU opens case against China following economic boycott of Lithuania

Controversy over name of Taiwan office in Lithuania has led to import restrictions in China. A lawsuit has now been filed against China in the WTO. Photo: Janis Laizans

The EU has filed a lawsuit against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) after Beijing imposed restrictions on imports from Lithuania, media BT reports.

The lawsuit comes after the Baltic Republic allowed Taiwan to open a diplomatic mission in Vilnius. An office which, in the eyes of the Chinese, is in practice an embassy.

“A lawsuit at the WTO is not something we take lightly,” EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement.

“But after repeated unsuccessful attempts to resolve the bilateral dispute, we see no other way than to get the WTO to go into the matter and discuss the matter with China,” he continued. He added that the EU will continue to try to find a diplomatic solution to the dispute.

With its 2.8 million inhabitants, Lithuania is one of the smallest countries in the EU. The dispute erupted in July when it allowed Taiwan to open a diplomatic mission in Vilnius.

China has since downgraded diplomatic relations between the two countries. In the justification from Beijing, it is stated: “This is done to ensure China’s sovereignty and the basic norms of international relations.”

China, therefore, has only one chargé d’affaires in the capital of Lithuania – not an ambassador. Lithuania has stressed that the country still supports the political course with a “one-China policy”. The policy of one China is a cornerstone of US-Chinese relations and relations with EU countries. It implies that the United States and the European Union – recognize and have formal relations with China rather than the island of Taiwan. The Chinese government perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province that will one day be reunited with the mother country. Lithuania has allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius, which is a kind of informal embassy.

This in itself is not unusual: there are almost 30 such representations in Europe alone. Including in Brussels, Berlin, and also Copenhagen. But all the former are called “Taipei Representation Office ” and refer only to Taiwan’s capital. The office in Vilnius, on the other hand, is called the “Taiwan Representation Office” which has provoked outrage in China.

Taiwan is not a member of the UN – China is blocking that – although the country de facto functions as its own country with its own constitution, democracy, government, and army.

The United States supports the EU and Lithuania in the conflict. Neither the United States nor any EU country is among the mere 15 states that officially recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

Yet there are close economic, political, and military ties between Taiwan and the Western world, BT writes.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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