In a significant development, Britain is set to join the European Union, the United States and Australia in a trade case against China at the World Trade Organization over Beijing’s alleged trade curbs on Lithuania, in a move aimed at opposing Beijing’s “coercive trading practices”.
In January, the EU had launched a challenge at China at the WTO accusing it of discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania, which threaten the integrity of its single market.
“We will request to join the EU’s WTO consultation into these measures as a third party to ensure we combat economic coercion in trade together,” said Anne-Marie Trevelyan in a tweet.
Taiwan has also signalled that it intends to join the group against China at the WTO.
U.S. Trade Representative spokesman Adam Hodge said the Biden administration is “deeply concerned” by China’s discriminatory trade practices against Lithuanian goods and EU goods with Lithuanian content.
“We will continue working with Lithuania, the EU, and like-minded allies and partners to push back on the PRC’s coercive economic and diplomatic behavior,” said Hodge. “The United States will request to join these WTO consultations in solidarity with Lithuania and the European Union.”
Lithuania is under pressure from China to reverse its decision to allow Taiwan to open an embassy in its capital.
China claims democratic Taiwan as its own.
In order to pressure Lithuania, Beijing has downgraded diplomatic ties and has pressured multinationals to sever ties with it.
The EU’s challenge at the WTO allows 60 days for the parties to confer in order to reach a settlement. However, if none is reached, the EU may choose to launch a formal dispute that would set up a WTO panel to study its claims against China.
“If you have other members arguing on your behalf and putting forward arguments, I think the panel would look at that,” said a Geneva-based trade official.