The European Union has filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization against China over what it says are import restrictions Beijing has imposed on Lithuania.
The European Commission estimates that China has reduced trade with the EU member state by 80 percent this year after Lithuania violated diplomatic custom in 2021 by allowing the Taiwanese office in Vilnius to carry the name Taiwan instead of Chinese Taipei, which most other countries use to avoid offending Beijing, the AP reported.
Lithuania's actions infuriated Beijing, which recalled its ambassador to Vilnius and expelled the Lithuanian ambassador to Beijing. The Baltic state has since closed its embassy in Beijing.
The European Commission said it was taking WTO action because China applied discriminatory and coercive measures against exports from Lithuania and against exports of EU products with Lithuanian content.
China said it regretted the EU move, which also included a second dispute over European companies' rights to high-tech patents.
China has always managed foreign trade in accordance with WTO rules, continued to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights and sought to create a favorable environment for innovation and business operations," the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.
But the EC said Chinese customs authorities rejected a number of shipments from Lithuania and suddenly formalized a complete ban on imports of alcohol, beef, dairy products, logs and peat shipped from Lithuania.
Until this year, Lithuania exported about 200 million euros worth of products to China each year.
The Commission is particularly concerned about the impact on the entire European market, as Chinese measures could prevent companies from doing business with Lithuania to avoid restrictions on their own products.
Unsatisfied with Beijing's response to its questions, the commission has asked for a WTO panel to review the dispute. Its request is expected to be considered Dec. 20 or late January. It could be a year before the WTO makes any decision.
Brussels has also requested a second WTO panel on another dispute with China. This concerns the legality of Beijing restricting European companies owning high-tech patents from accessing European courts to defend and protect their rights.
The Chinese side regrets the European side's decision, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said. China will duly consider the relevant request sent by the EU in accordance with WTO dispute settlement procedures and vigorously defend its legitimate rights and interests.