China has banned beef, dairy and alcohol imports from Lithuania, in a dramatic escalation in the trade and geopolitical feud between the two countries. In a letter sent by China’s customs authority to Lithuania’s State Food and Veterinary Service, seen by the South China Morning Post , Beijing accused the tiny Baltic state of failing to provide technical details under which such goods are permitted to enter the Chinese market. “Despite repeated urging from the Chinese side, Lithuania only submitted materials for beef exports to China once in August 2019, and has not submitted any materials since then,” the letter read. “In view of this, China has decided to suspend import declarations for Lithuanian beef and dairy products from February 9,” it continued. Lithuanian food production enterprises arbitrarily change the production date and expiry date after the product is produced China’s customs authority China’s customs authority said it had received a report from Chinese consumers “that there was a problem of tampering with the production date and expiry date of Lithuanian beer exported to China”. It claimed that “Lithuanian food production enterprises arbitrarily change the production date and expiry date after the product is produced, with a suspicion of counterfeiting which poses food safety risks to customers, and the Lithuanian authorities do not pay attention to it, which makes this risk even more serious”. For this reason, China has suspended “the acceptance of import declarations for Lithuanian alcohol after February 9”. Senior Lithuanian government sources said the claims were “total nonsense”, adding that “we provided them [Chinese authorities] with requested information regularly”. Lithuania won’t back down over Taiwan, says minister in Australia Miriam Garcia Ferrer, a spokeswoman in the European Union’s trade department, said the bloc was “aware of new measures introduced by China” and is “currently in touch with the Lithuanian authorities on details”. The development comes amid a spiralling row that has seen Lithuanian companies frozen out of the Chinese market, and which has hit broader European supply chains containing Lithuanian goods. It is further evidence of the souring ties between China and the European Union member nation, which escalated after Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a controversially named representative office in its capital Vilnius last year. China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunited, by force if necessary. We firmly stand together with Lithuania Joanne Ou “We firmly stand together with Lithuania,” Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said in response to the ban, which she called “unilateral” and “bullying” and the latest example of Beijing trying to change Lithuania’s foreign policy. China has formally downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania, and exporters reported in December that they had been removed from the Chinese customs system, meaning they were unable to fulfil shipments. The value of shipments from Lithuania to China dropped by 91.22 per cent from a year earlier and by 91.17 per cent from November to just US$3.78 million in December. Lithuania only started to export beef and wheat to China at the end of 2019, and even though it is the world’s top importer of beef, China imported just 775 tonnes of the meat from Lithuania in 2021 from a total 2.33 million tonnes. China plays down Lithuania rift as its belt and road investments grow abroad Meat processing company Krekenavos Agrofirma is also the only Lithuanian company allowed to export beef to China. Beef is also the only meat Lithuania is allowed to export to China. On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of Lithuania and Australia, who have also been stuck in trade disputes with China, reached an agreement to step up cooperation on strategic challenges, in particular pressure from Beijing. China suspended beef imports from another Australian meat processing facility last month, with Teys Naracoorte the 10th to be banned since May 2020. “The more that we are able to share our views and to articulate our views together as we are doing today, the more I think we are sending the strongest possible message about our rejection of coercion and our rejection of authoritarianism,” said Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne after meeting Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis in Canberra. Regardless of geography, democracies are deepening cooperation in response to shared challenges & common values. Pleased to host 🇱🇹 @GLandsbergis in Canberra to discuss #IndoPacific priorities, countering disinformation & support for Ukraine’s sovereignty & territorial integrity. pic.twitter.com/h89KaHXaXo — Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) February 9, 2022 Australia, Britain and the United States have all requested to join consultations ahead of a European Union trade case against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Beijing’s trade curbs on Lithuania. “The ins and outs of the fraught China-Lithuania relations are very clear. China has responded properly in defence of its legitimate rights and interests and international justice, which is completely legitimate and lawful,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday. “China always follows WTO rules. The so-called coercion of China against Lithuania is purely made out of thin air.” Lithuania, Zhao added, should follow the one-China policy, which is Beijing’s official diplomatic position that Taiwan is part of China. “It should stop confounding right with wrong and maliciously hyping things up, let alone trying to rope other countries into ganging up on China,” he added. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said last month that China and the European Union have always maintained communication as part of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. “China has always managed its foreign trade in a manner consistent with the rules of the WTO and will handle relevant issues in accordance with the relevant rules of the WTO,” he said. At the start of January, a Taiwanese government-owned liquor firm bought a shipment of Lithuanian rum that had been blocked by Chinese customs Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor said it bought the 20,400 bottles of dark rum made by MV Group Production in December in an effort to support Lithuania.