China-Lithuania row: US vows to side with Europe to beat ‘economic coercion’ by Beijing

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The United States has vowed to reinforce its support and work with European allies to help Lithuania counter “economic coercion” by China following a diplomatic dispute over Taiwan opening a representative office in Vilnius under its own name.

US trade representative Katherine Tai and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a phone call on Wednesday the two nations would stay in regular communication to strengthen their economic relationship.

“Ambassador Tai emphasised the US commitment to working with the European Union and its member states to address coercive diplomatic and economic behaviour,” a statement released by the US trade representative said.

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The two officials said the US-EU Trade and Technology Council could play a part in addressing their “shared challenges”.

“Ambassador Tai and Minister Landsbergis both noted that the United States and the EU, as democratic market economies, share a number of core values and principles that we need to defend internationally,” the statement said.

Diplomatic ties between China and Lithuania were downgraded after Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius under its own name – a move that Beijing saw as a violation of the one-China principle.

There have been reports Beijing unofficially blocked Lithuanian exports from entering its market and that it demanded other European companies not to use components made in Lithuania. The European Union complained to the World Trade Organization, but China denied the allegation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US had immediate concern about “China’s attempts to bully Lithuania”.

“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,” Blinken said after meeting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday.

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“This isn’t just about Lithuania, but about how every country in the world should be able to determine its own foreign policy free from this kind of coercion. And the United States will work with our allies and partners, including Germany, to stand up against intimidation like this from China by strengthening our economic resilience, diversifying our supply chains and countering all forms of economic blackmail.”

The dispute has resulted in political tensions within Lithuania, with President Gitanas Nauseda saying the use of “Taiwan” in the name of the de facto embassy was “a mistake”.

He also said he had not been consulted on the move – a charge Landsbergis denied on Wednesday, when he said the president had been consulted all along.

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