The European Union took China to the World Trade Organization on January 27 over its coercive practices against Lithuania and some exporters from other member states, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told Bloomberg in an interview.
“These measures are a threat to the integrity of the single market because they affect intra-EU trade and EU supply chains and have a negative impact on EU industry,” Dombrovskis is quoted as saying.
Dombrovskis said the EU worked hard to gather evidence to document China’s restrictive measures against European products, because the actions were conducted informally and many European companies were reluctant to cooperate because they fear retaliation from Beijing.
As reported by bne IntelliNews, China, the EU’s main trade partner, started blocking Lithuanian products and some other European goods that contained Lithuanian components at customs in December, after Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius under the country’s name instead of the capital, Taipei. Beijing considered the move a challenge to its sovereignty.
The diplomatic standoff escalated after China recalled its ambassador and downgraded ties with Lithuania. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian government has rejected any change to the name of the representative office opened in mid-November.
The Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, the country’s largest business association, said some 130 companies are unable to send products to China or to clear shipments through customs. The economic value of the containers blocked is around €26.5 million ($29.9 million), EU officials said.
The most affected sectors have been pharmaceuticals, lasers, electronics and food and beverages.
China’s coercive measures included restrictions on exports to the Baltic nation, and Chinese companies are cancelling orders from Lithuanian firms.