Lithuanian minister says Taiwan office a 'very important step'

Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Economy and Innovation Karolis Zemaitis (left) and Mr Tsai Yun-chung, director-general of Taiwan's Department of International Cooperation and Economic Affairs, at the Lithuanian Lifestyle Festival in Taipei. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI - The opening of the Lithuanian trade office in Taiwan is a "very important step" for both democracies and the two are on a good track for economic cooperation, a visiting vice-minister from the Baltic state said on Friday.

China has downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and pressured multinationals to sever links with the nation of 2.8 million people after it allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan says it will defend its freedoms and democracy.

The corresponding office in Taipei will begin operations "in the nearest future", Lithuania's Ministry of Economy and Innovation said on Friday, though Taiwan's Foreign Ministry says it is already effectively in operation.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Economy and Innovation Karolis Zemaitis said "very intense preparations" are taking place to open the office.

"Of course this is a very important step for us, for both democracies," he said.

Formally called the Lithuanian Trade Office in Taipei, it comes under Zemaitis' ministry and is headed by Paulius Lukauskas, previously an adviser to prime minister Ingrida Simonyte.

China has repeatedly denounced Lithuania's engagement with Taiwan, which it views as Chinese territory over the strong objections of the government in Taipei.

Last month, China imposed sanctions on Lithuanian Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Agne Vaiciukeviciute for visiting Taiwan.

Asked whether China has warned him not to go come, Zemaitis, who has been leading a 28-person business delegation to Taiwan this week, said he had not had contact with "any of the Chinese representatives".

Taiwan has sought to encourage Taiwanese investment in Lithuania and to import more goods from the country.

"I think we are right now very intensively working on the best possible economic outcome together with our Taiwanese colleagues and I think we're on a very, very good track," Zemaitis said.

"Of course when it comes to the overall market diversification which is important globally for many countries including European (ones), I think this is always a process that might take some time." REUTERS

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