Taiwan joins WTO case against China over Lithuania

Vilnius is under pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan has joined the United States and Australia in backing a European Union trade case against China at the World Trade Organisation over Beijing's alleged trade curbs on Lithuania, its foreign ministry said on Tuesday (Feb 15).

The EU launched a challenge at the Geneva-based trade body last month, accusing China of discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania that it says threaten the integrity of the EU's single market.

Vilnius is under pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, to reverse a decision last year to allow the island to open a de facto embassy in the capital under its own name.

China has downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and also pressured multinationals to sever ties with the Baltic nation.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou said Taiwan had last Wednesday joined the consultations for the case as a third party under the WTO's dispute resolution mechanism.

"China's economic coercion has violated international economic and trade norms and should not be tolerated," she told reporters.

"Taiwan will cooperate with like-minded partners such as Lithuania and the European Union to maintain a rules-based international trading system."

Britain has also said it will join the case.

The challenge at the WTO allows 60 days for the parties to confer in order to reach a settlement. If none is reached, the EU may choose to launch a formal dispute that would set up a WTO panel to study its claims against China.

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