EU ministers to back Lithuania in 'China trade war'
French Trade Minister says that the tougher strategy on China and other “disloyal” actors was part of a “paradigm shift” in EU trade policy.
French Trade Minister Franck Riester told AFP that his counterparts meeting in Marseille, France, claimed that Lithuania was a victim of what he called China's coercion and that measures to grant Europe new rights to fight back would be expedited.
Relations between Brussels and Beijing are at an all-time low, following the failure to approve a long-awaited investment agreement, which was then met with a wave of tit-for-tat sanctions.
"What China is doing with Lithuania is clearly coercion. The Chinese are using trade and economic weapons to put political pressure on us," Riester claimed.
He said that It doesn't matter what happened between China and Lithuania but criticized the manner that China chose to address the issue.
Lithuania's President, Gitanas Nauseda, had said on January 4, that his country's decision to open a representative office for Taiwan, using the name of the country, was a mistake.
The European Commission, which oversees trade policy for the EU's 27 member states, has already filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization, though the procedure may take months or years.
The EU has stated that diplomatic solutions are also being pursued, but Riester stated that a proposal for Europe is on track to develop what he called an "anti-coercion capability."
It is worth mentioning that the tool could include freezing access to public contracts, holding up health and safety authorizations on certain products, or bans from EU-funded research projects.
Riester claimed that the tougher strategy on China and other “disloyal” actors was part of a “paradigm shift” in EU trade policy that for too long saw free trade and opening new markets as an end in itself.
Trade was an essential part of the European economy, he stated, “but not at any price… not at the price of unfair competition, not at the price of our values."
A summit between the EU and China is to occur in late March as the union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced had announced on January 15.
China Downgrades Relations with Lithuania
China on the 21st of November, 2021 officially downgraded its relations with Lithuania to the level of chargé d'affaires, according to China's Foreign Ministry, in protest of Taiwan opening a de facto representative office in Vilnius.
The foreign ministry protested the move, saying it downgraded diplomatic relations between the two countries to "safeguard its sovereignty."
"The Lithuanian government, in disregard of the Chinese side’s strong objection and repeated dissuasion, has approved the establishment of the so-called ‘Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania,'” said China's statement. “The Chinese government expresses strong protest over and firm objection to this extremely egregious act. The Lithuanian side shall be responsible for all the ensuing consequences."
This move, according to the ministry, abandons Lithuania's political commitment in the communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lithuania and China.
China called the opening of the embassy on Thursday "a provocative move," and asked Lithuania to "correct its wrong decisions immediately."