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Lithuania asks Taiwan to fast-track approval of exports amid punishment from China

China made example of Lithuania earlier this month with wholesale customs block over new Taiwan representative office

Lithuania's Port of Klaipeda  

Lithuania's Port of Klaipeda   (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Lithuania is pressing the Taiwanese authorities to grant agricultural exports market access as China targets the Baltic country with economic punishment for sticking with Taiwan in a dispute over a new representative office.

In an interview with CNA on Monday (Dec. 20), Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture official Antanas Venckus pointed out that since China began its punitive campaign, many exporters in his country are having difficulty selling their products in China. Lithuania is grateful for the Taiwanese government's offer to secure a route to Taiwan for these imports, he said, but most have yet to be approved for entry.

"Now the ball is in the Taiwanese side, and we are waiting for these actions to make this export possible," he added.

Lithuania drew China's wrath when it shrugged off the Asian giant's calls to cancel the opening of the "Taiwanese Representative Office" last month in the capital Vilnius. The use of "Taiwanese" instead of "Taipei" was a departure from the names of most of the country's de facto embassies in non-allied states.

China retaliated by recalling its ambassador to Lithuania and ordering the Lithuanian envoy to leave. The Chinese authorities also brought direct freight to Lithuania to a halt and imposed an unofficial export ban — unprecedented for the authoritarian nation — by removing Lithuania from its customs list, without warning, though the Baltic nation reappeared on the list four days later.

China has also reportedly been seeking to coerce global firms to cut off business ties. Venckus warned other European Union countries that Lithuania is being made an example of to demonstrate "what's going to happen or what might happen, you know, if you are not playing according to the rules of the Chinese government, and if you defend your interests, which are based on your values."

Although China accounts for only about 1.1% of Lithuania's total exports, exports to China more than tripled to reach US$357.2 million (NT$10 billion) between 2015 and 2020, according to U.N. statistics. Cereals topped the list of exported goods last year at US$75.9 million.

Taiwan's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) announced on Dec. 8 that it would allow the import of certain cereals from Lithuania, including wheat, barley and oats, as well as peas, per Baltic News Network. Further agricultural data is needed, however, before Lithuanian rye, beans, triticale, and rapeseed get the go-ahead.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said during a regular press conference Monday that Lithuania had rejected the commitment it made to China in establishing diplomatic ties as well as the "one-China" principle. If Lithuania continues down the "dark path" of "colluding with 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces," it will find itself in the "trash can of history," he continued.