EU sues China in WTO over Lithuania blockade

The European Union today launched a World Trade Organization case against China over what it calls “discriminatory trade practices” against Lithuania.

The move comes after Beijing blocked most trade with Lithuania after the Baltic state deepened ties with Taiwan.

“Launching a WTO case is not a step we take lightly. However, after repeated failed attempts to resolve the issue bilaterally, we see no other way forward than to request WTO dispute settlement consultations with China,” European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement. “The EU is determined to act as one and act fast against measures in breach of WTO rules, which threaten the integrity of our Single Market. We are in parallel pursuing our diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.”

Beijing has imposed an import ban, an export ban and restriction of services against Lithuania, according to a letter sent by EU Ambassador to the WTO João Aguiar Machado to his Chinese counterpart, Li Chenggang. The letter added: “These measures predominantly concern goods or services from or destined for Lithuania or linked in various ways to Lithuania, but also have an effect on supply chains throughout the EU.”

China has been warning the EU not to take over what it sees as a bilateral dispute with Lithuania. Today’s action by the EU will likely be seen by Beijing as an escalation.

The Chinese government has denied involvement in what it says is pure business preferences against Lithuanian supplies. The EU disagrees, saying the measures “are attributable to China” possibly “in concert with the government,” according to the letter.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service Pro Trade. From transatlantic trade wars to the U.K.’s future trading relationship with the EU and rest of the world, Pro Trade gives you the insight you need to plan your next move. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

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