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EU Takes China to WTO Over Dispute     12/07 06:14

   

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union announced Wednesday that it has begun 
legal action at the World Trade Organization against China over what it says 
are import restrictions Beijing has imposed on Lithuania.

   The European Commission estimates that China cut trade from the EU member 
country by 80% this year after Lithuania broke with diplomatic custom in 2021 
by allowing a Taiwanese office in Vilnius to bear the name Taiwan, instead of 
Chinese Taipei, which most other countries use to avoid offending Beijing.

   China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory with no right to 
diplomatic recognition, and Lithuania's move infuriated Beijing, which withdrew 
its ambassador to Vilnius and expelled the Lithuanian ambassador to Beijing. 
The Baltic state has since closed its embassy in Beijing.

   The commission, which handles trade on behalf of the EU's 27 member 
countries, said it is taking WTO action because "China has applied 
discriminatory and coercive measures against exports from Lithuania and against 
exports of EU products containing Lithuanian content."

   China said it regrets the EU move, which also includes a second dispute 
about European companies' rights over their high-tech patents.

   "China has always managed foreign trade in a manner consistent with WTO 
rules, continued to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights, 
and strived to create a favorable environment for innovation and business 
operations," the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

   The EU's executive branch, however, said Chinese customs authorities have 
rejected a number of Lithuanian imports and had "suddenly formalized complete 
import bans on alcohol, beef, dairy, logs, and peat shipped from Lithuania." It 
said Beijing has used food and animal health reasons for doing so.

   Prior to this year, Lithuania exported around 200 million euros ($210 
million) worth of produce to China annually.

   The commission is particularly concerned about the impact on the entire 
European market because China's measures might discourage companies from doing 
business with Lithuania to avoid having restrictions placed on their own 
products.

   Dissatisfied with Beijing's response to its questions, the commission has 
requested the establishment of a WTO panel to hear the dispute. It expects its 
request to be heard on Dec. 20 or in late January. It could take a year before 
any decision is handed down from the governing body for world trade.

   Brussels also requested a second WTO panel over another dispute with China. 
It concerns the legality of Beijing restricting EU companies that hold 
high-tech patents from accessing European courts to protect and enforce their 
rights.

   "The Chinese side regrets the European side's decision," the Ministry of 
Commerce said. "China will properly handle the relevant request raised by the 
EU in accordance with the WTO dispute settlement procedures, and resolutely 
safeguard its legitimate rights and interests."

 
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