Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has asked the European Commission to step in in order to resolve disruptions to Lithuania's trade with China.
On Monday, Landsbergis turned to Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, and Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission vice-president in charge of trade, after Lithuanian businesses complained that their goods were not being cleared through the Chinese customs.
“I would kindly ask you to intervene with the Chinese authorities on behalf of Lithuania with the aim of resolving the present situation,” the minister said in his letter.
“I will be grateful for your persistent support in ensuring that international trade is conducted in accordance with globally recognised trade rules and good practices, and that customs and other procedures are not being instrumentalised as a means of political pressure against an EU member state.
“Furthermore, I would like to stress the importance of EU unity and solidarity as well as a firm and principled stance in EU engagement with the People’s Republic of China. A strong reaction is necessary at the EU level in order to send a signal to China that politically motivated economic pressure is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Lithuania and China are facing a crisis in bilateral relations, with Beijing protesting against Vilnius' decision to forge ties with Taiwan.
The Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists said last week that Lithuania had been removed from China's electronic customs declaration system, effectively blocking its imports to China.
Landsbergis noted that Lithuanian businesses operating in the pharmaceutical, laser, electronics, beverage and food industries were the only group facing such problems in exporting their products to China.
“It is hard not to see that these recent measures by the People’s Republic of China are a continuation of the politically motivated economic coercion that Lithuania has been facing since August 2021. China never hid the intention to punish Lithuania for its sovereign decision to leave the China-led 17+1 format and to build closer ties with Taiwan,” he said.
Lithuania's foreign minister also said that China's “growing pressure” would have a “direct impact on the entire EU and our common trade policy”.
He also noted in his letter that Lithuania had not been informed of China's unilateral decisions to halt imports.
“Recent actions by the Chinese authorities take politically motivated economic pressure to an unprecedentedly high level. What we encounter now cannot be described in any other way than economic coercion conducted through various channels, in clear breach of international norms,” he said.
As the crisis in relations between Vilnius and Beijing deepened, the Chinese embassy said in late November that it was suspending the issuance of visas in Lithuania.
It said the move was due to technical reasons, but it came after China officially downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania to the level of chargé d’affaires in protest of Taiwan opening a representative office in Vilnius.
The Taiwanese Representative Office opened in Vilnius on November 18.
Elsewhere in the world, Taiwan's representative offices operate under the name of Taipei, in line with an international consensus that this does not run counter to the “one China” policy which sees the self-ruled island as part of China.