EU launches WTO action against China over Lithuania dispute

Jan 26, 2022, 11:52 PM | Updated: Jan 27, 2022, 4:56 pm

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and China on Thursday stepped up their diplomatic dispute as the EU took a spat over exports problems for member state Lithuania to world trade’s governing body, and accused Beijing of seeking to undermine the 27-nation bloc’s single market.

China retorted that the EU should “distinguish right from wrong.” It said Brussels should get Lithuania to stick to diplomatic relations based on the “one-China” principle at the expense of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory with no right to diplomatic recognition.

Lithuania broke with diplomatic custom by agreeing that the Taiwanese office in Vilnius would bear the name Taiwan instead of Chinese Taipei, a term used by other countries to avoid offending Beijing.

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis insisted the bloc was owed more respect and said Beijing should stop coercing member states with heavy-handed trade tactics like blocking imports based on political grounds.

“Our relationship requires mutual respect,” Dombrovskis said as he announced the EU action at the World Trade Organization.

However, China’s foreign affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian insisted the EU should move to counter its member’s approach.

“We also advise the EU to distinguish right from wrong, remain vigilant against Lithuania’s attempts to hijack China-EU relations, and persuade Lithuania, like other EU member states, to fulfill the political commitments it made as establishing diplomatic relations with China,” Zhao said.

“We urge Lithuania to immediately correct its mistake,” he added.

Beijing expelled the Lithuanian ambassador and withdrew its own ambassador. Last month, Lithuania closed its embassy in the Chinese capital. Tensions have mounted, and Lithuania, together with the EU, accuse Beijing of holding up goods, both from the Baltic nation and from EU companies that use Lithuanian components, at China’s borders.

“Let me be clear: these measures are a threat to the integrity of the EU single market so it affects the entire EU trade and EU supply chains, and they have a negative effect on EU industry,” Dombrovskis said.

Even if Lithuania only has a population of 2.8 million, Dombrovkis said not reacting to Beijing’s action could affect the whole bloc of 450 million people.

“China is putting pressure on international companies to abandon the use of Lithuanian components in their production. Otherwise, they may face import restrictions,” said Dombrovskis. Because of it, such an economic move against one member state, made it a trade attack on all.

“The EU is determined to act as one and act fast against measures in breach of WTO rules,” Dombrovskis said. The powerful Federation of German Industries, Germany’s main industry lobby group, said the Chinese measures targeting Lithuania “also are causing significant uncertainty for German companies” that use Lithuanian components.

Lithuania was grateful for the support.

“This step is a clear message to China that the EU will not tolerate politically motivated actions of economic coercion,” Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

The European Commission manages trade on behalf of the 27 EU member countries. It says it has built up evidence of Chinese restrictions. They include a refusal to clear Lithuanian goods through customs, the rejection of import applications from Lithuania, and pressuring European companies.

The WTO process, though, can take many months, if not years, before a final decision is reached.

Thursday’s move is likely to further dent relations that China long saw as favorable to counterbalance the economic and political strife it faced with the United States. Last year, the EU joined Washington, Britain and Canada in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over accusations they are linked to the abuse of ethnic minorities. Beijing retaliated by announcing it would penalize four European legislators, among others.

Those countermeasures in effect froze the approval of a potentially massive investment deal between China and the EU which was tentatively agreed in December 2020.


Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

6 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

7 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

9 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

9 days ago

(Pexels photo)...

Associated Press

Baby in Kansas City, Missouri, dies after her mother mistakenly put her in an oven

An infant in Missouri died when her mother mistakenly put her down for a nap in an oven, a prosecutor said Saturday.

10 days ago

Former Arizona Department of Corrections boss Charles Ryan received probation on Feb. 9, 2024. (AP ...

Associated Press

Former Arizona corrections boss sentenced to probation over armed 2022 standoff with police

Former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan was sentenced Friday to probation for his no-contest plea to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a 2022 armed standoff at his Tempe home.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

EU launches WTO action against China over Lithuania dispute