UK ‘looking closely’ at EU’s WTO case against China

LONDON — The U.K. government is taking a “close look” at the EU’s legal action against China after Beijing’s ongoing dispute with Lithuania escalated last week.

The United States and Australia have lent support to the EU WTO case, lodged on Thursday, which accuses China of “discriminatory trade practices” against Lithuania, including imposing an import and export ban.

The row blew up when Vilnius allowed Taiwan to open an eponymous representative office, rather than one named after its capital city, Taipei.

Asked if the U.K. planned on following in Washington’s footsteps, a DIT spokesperson said: “The U.K. has always been a champion of the rules-based trading system and its framework for free and fair trade. Actions taken in this space need to be evidenced-based and we will look closely at the case raised by the EU.”

It comes as former Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the U.K. “should not hesitate” to support actions “against trade practices which are clearly politically motivated.”

The former cabinet minister said Beijing’s treatment of Lithuania is “another example of China’s bullying culture,” citing the trade sanctions imposed on Australia as relations have soured.

Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Lithuanian vice-minister of foreign affairs, told POLITICO in January that the U.K. and other western allies could show support for Lithuania at the WTO.

“We will need quite a coordinated response at the WTO where such measures should in many ways receive a clear response,” he said.

China’s foreign affairs spokesman urged the EU to “distinguish right from wrong” and called on Lithuania to “immediately correct its mistake” regarding its decision on the naming of Taiwan’s representative office.

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