US Vows Steadfast Trade Support to Lithuania Amid Spat With China

Washington pledged to steadfastly backup Vilnius as it withstands Beijing’s intimidation as part of its punitive campaign towards Lithuania.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai promised on Jan. 5 “continuing strong support” to Lithuania in a telephone call with its Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. The ambassador said the government would work with the European Union (EU) and its members to address the “coercive diplomatic and economic behavior” of China, her office said in a press release.

The fury of China blasted at the very beginning when the Baltic state allowed self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a runaway province with no right to diplomatic recognition, to open a de facto embassy in its capital Vilnius.

Besides downgraded diplomatic ties in a spat with China, Lithuania has since been in an escalated financial dispute as Beijing pressured countries to halt sourcing materials from Lithuania and imposed a trade embargo over Lithuanian exports and imports.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reasserted the “immediate concern” about China’s attempts to bully Lithuania, during a joint press conference on Jan. 5 with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

“China is pushing European and American companies to stop building products with components made in Lithuania or risk losing access to the Chinese market, all because Lithuania chose to expand their cooperation with Taiwan.”

The economic coercion tactics pose “a significant challenge” to shared values of democratic alliances and the international rule of law, said Blinken, calling for transatlantic coordination with Germany to strengthen economic resilience and diverse sourcing supplies.

“Fundamentally, this is about what we’re for together, not what we’re against,” Blinken said.

Baerbock said the country “as Europeans stand in solidarity at Lithuania’s side” and would ban forced labor products from entering its market.

In a previous phone call on Jan.3 with Blinken and other foreign ministers, Landsbergis thanked the United States for their solidarity and support for Lithuania in the face of China’s political and economic pressure, said the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

Dovile Sakaliene, a member of Lithuania’s parliament said via Twitter the same day: “Domestic disputes shall not change the consistent Lithuanian foreign policy: our security depends upon solidarity, engagement of partners, and protecting democracy.”

The EU’s top trade official said last month that the bloc would stand up to coercive measures imposed on its member state Lithuania. Valdis Dombrovskis, a European Commission vice president from Latvia, said if necessary the E.U. would take up the issue at the World Trade Organization.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States signed a $600 million export credit agreement with Lithuania in November last year, in a bid to resist increased pressure from the Chinese regime.

Taiwan also said on Jan. 6 to set up a $200 million fund to invest in Lithuanian industries and boost bilateral trade, said Eric Huang, the head of the Taiwanese representative office in Lithuania.

Taiwan has redirected 120 shipping containers from Lithuania blocked by China into its market and will take “as much as possible” more, Huang said.

China recalled its ambassador in Vilnius in August, before expelling Lithuania’s envoy in Beijing in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times