Lithuania claims ‘economic coercion’ to force EU to act: insiders
Published: Dec 12, 2021 08:53 PM
A ship loading foreign trade goods at Qingdao Port Fully Automated Container Terminal in East China's Shandong Province in early October. Photo: cnsphoto

A ship loading foreign trade goods at Qingdao Port Fully Automated Container Terminal in East China's Shandong Province in early October. Photo: cnsphoto

Shipping of Chinese exports to Lithuania have been operating without disruption and there have been no official notice of suspension of shipments to the Baltic country, Chinese industry insiders told the Global Times on Sunday, refuting claims in Lithuanian media outlets that China has suspended some exports to the country amid diplomatic tension.

There have been frequent claims from the Lithuanian side about the suspension of trade, but the Global Times' interviews with international traders, business representatives and customs officials showed otherwise. Experts said that such claims are clearly aimed at accusing China of "economic coercion" and therefore force the EU to respond.

Chinese officials have said that Lithuania will pay a price for its mistake on the Taiwan question but has not publicly announced any economic countermeasures yet.   

Still, a Lithuanian vehicle entrepreneur recently encountered obstacles while seeking to import much-needed goods from China, Vzglyad, a Russian online newspaper, reported on Friday, citing reports from Delfi, the main Lithuanian news portal in English.

The Lithuanian company allegedly received a notice saying that the filing of the customs declaration could not be completed, nor could the goods be sent to Lithuania until further notice, an unidentified Lithuanian businessperson told Delfi.

However, after reaching out to several traders on Sunday who do business with Lithuania, the Global Times found a different story.

A freight forwarder in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province told the Global Times on Sunday that the current shipping situation to Lithuania is normal, and there are transit routes serving this trade calling at Rotterdam and Hamburg, and the process takes about 45 days, which is within the normal time frame.

A ship to Klaipeda, Lithuania can be found through the ship query system, the forwarder further noted, but he didn't know whether the consignee can smoothly clear customs after the goods arrive in Lithuania.

"It is recommended that the freight forwarder communicate well in advance, or require payment before shipping," the person said.

A senior trader with the China-Europe freight train who is in close contact with the trading business in Lithuania said that he is not aware of the reported obstacles in terms of exporting or importing between the two countries.

Experts believe that the frequent allegations that lack a strong factual basis from Lithuanian media, politicians and businesspeople could be an indication of the next provocative move that the northern European country or the EU plots against China.

The EU is preparing anti-coercion tools against China, and the Lithuanian incidents may become the EU's so-called "evidence," to be used as the tools, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.

If these unconfirmed news items continue to circulate, it will become the EU's "evidence" and show the so-called toughness against China, Cui said.

This is not the first time that Lithuanian media outlets have made allegations against China regarding bilateral trade.

Some Lithuanian and other foreign media outlets reported in early December that Lithuanian products had been removed from China's customs systems, with some painting the move as "economic coercion" by China, after China downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania over the latter's mistake on the Taiwan question. 

However, the Global Times' earlier investigations into such claims, which included interviews with several sources close to Chinese customs and industry insiders, found that Lithuanian products were still listed in official customs systems

"China does not have a corresponding sanctions law, but only an anti-sanctions law… China only recognizes sanctions under the UN framework, and only participates in multilateral sanctions," Cui said, responding to the allegations of trade suspension against Lithuania.

But the expert noted that China needs to make a clear statement and ask the Lithuanian side to produce evidence about the allegations, so as not to provide space to affect public opinion.

Lithuania's exports to the Chinese mainland have increased nearly nine times in the past 10 years, reaching 316 million euros ($357.62 million). Total bilateral trade reached 1.5 billion euros. In contrast, trade between Lithuania and the Taiwan region was only 85 million euros, according to media reports.