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EU Launches WTO Action Against China   01/27 06:03

   The European Union on Thursday stepped up its dispute with China as it took 
an economic spat over exports from member state Lithuania to the world trade's 
governing body and accused Beijing of seeking to undermine the 27-nation bloc's 
single market.

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union on Thursday stepped up its dispute with 
China as it took an economic spat over exports from member state Lithuania to 
the world trade's governing body and accused Beijing of seeking to undermine 
the 27-nation bloc's single market.

   EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis insisted the European Union 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.

   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. China considers Taiwan part of its 
territory with no right to diplomatic recognition.

   Beijing expelled the Lithuanian ambassador and withdrew its own ambassador. 
Last month, Lithuania closed its own embassy in the Chinese capital. Tensions 
have mounted, and Lithuania, together with the EU, accuse Beijing of holding up 
goods 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 spread throughout 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.

   Lithuania was thankful to have such EU 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 on in 
December 2020.

   "The European Parliament has been clear that it will not proceed with this 
ratification of this agreement in a situation where members of European 
Parliament are under China's sanctions," Dombrovskis said.

 
 
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