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Amid a row with Beijing, shipments of rum from Lithuania turned away from mainland China were diverted to Taiwan in January. Photo: Handout

Lithuania plans to open Taiwan office in September, says exports to mainland China ‘close to zero’

  • Lithuanian minister visiting Taipei says Beijing was important trade partner and drop in exports has caused pain to some domestic businesses
  • Vilnius remains confident the US$250 million value of direct exports to mainland China last year can be made up in other markets in Asia

Lithuania plans to open a representative office in Taiwan in September, one of its deputy ministers said on Wednesday, part of a bolstering of ties with the island that has infuriated mainland China and led, she added, to exports falling to almost zero.

Lithuania has come under sustained pressure from Beijing, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, to reverse a decision last year to allow the island to open a de facto embassy in the capital, Vilnius, under its own name.

Beijing has downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and pressured multinationals to sever ties with it, while urging it to correct its “mistakes”.

Lithuania’svice-minister of economy and innovation Jovita Neliupsiene at a news conference with Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou in Taipei. Photo: Reuters

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, vice-minister of economy and innovation Jovita Neliupsiene said Lithuania hoped its reciprocal office in Taiwan would open “as of September”, adding she had scouted out some locations during her visit.

Taiwan has stepped up its food imports from Lithuania – most recently rum – to help ease the impact of mainland Chinese curbs on its goods, such as beer, dairy and beef.

Neliupsiene said China had been an important export partner, but its exports to the mainland in the first quarter had fallen to “close to zero” year-on-year.

“Of course, it’s very painful for certain sectors, for certain businesses and certain parts of the economy,” she said.

‘Lithuania mania’ sweeps Taiwan as Beijing’s spat with Vilnius sizzles

But Neliupsiene said the value of direct exports to mainland China last year – €240 million (US$250 million) – could be made up in other markets, such as Taiwan or elsewhere in Asia.

“One of the policies this government, our government, pursues, is actually the policy of diversification,” she said.

“I do believe that finding good, solid, trusted and reliable partners in Taiwan and in other Indo-Pacific countries will be even more beneficial to us than before.”

The European Union, of which Lithuania is a member, launched a challenge at the World Trade Organization in January, accusing Beijing of discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania that it says threaten the integrity of the EU’s single market.