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In response to Chinese ‘coercion’, a senior U.S. official will visit Lithuania

FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese and Lithuanian flags are displayed at the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius, Lithuania January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Janis Laizans//File Photo

A senior U.S. official will visit Lithuania next week to examine ways to strengthen economic ties with the small Baltic republic, which has come under Chinese pressure to strengthen ties with Taiwan.

The news: Jose Fernandez, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, will visit Vilnius from Sunday to Tuesday and Brussels from Wednesday to Friday, where he will discuss efforts to prevent economic “coercion” with EU officials, according to a release.

  • He will address bilateral economic cooperation and the United States’ “strong support for Lithuania in the face of political pressure and economic coercion from the People’s Republic of China” in Vilnius, according to a release.
  • Fernandez will be accompanied by officials from the United States Export-Import Bank to discuss the implementation of a $600 million memorandum of understanding to expand opportunities for U.S. exporters and Lithuanian buyers in areas such as high-tech manufacturing, business services, and renewable energy.
  • Fernandez will address transatlantic trade and investment with the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council in Brussels.

What’s going on: The U.S., which is attempting to counter expanding Chinese influence around the world, has backed Lithuania in its dispute with China over Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

  • After Taiwan created a representative office in Vilnius last year dubbed the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, rather than the more popular term Taipei, China downgraded its diplomatic connection with Lithuania and pressured businesses to cut ties with the country.
  • On Thursday, EU officials filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), accusing China of discriminatory trade practises against EU member Lithuania, which they claim endangers the bloc’s single market.

What they’re saying: Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it aims to resolve its trade issue with China through EU-China negotiations.

  • Taiwan’s Office of Trade Negotiations said late Friday that it “completely supports” the EU and Lithuania in the WTO lawsuit and opposes China’s “inappropriate economic coercion.”
  • “Our country will work with other like-minded partners such as Lithuania and the EU to prevent China from using coercive economic and diplomatic measures, to maintain a rules-based international trading system,” it added in a statement.
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