Lithuania Leaves CEEC, Plans Trade Office In Taiwan

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  • Lithuanian Foreign Minister opts for an alternative China market 10 times smaller 

In a controversial move, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has stated that the country has dropped out of China’s “17+1” group and urged other EU countries to follow suit.

“There is no such thing as 17+1 anymore, as for practical purposes Lithuania is out” Landsbergis stated, referring to Beijing’s decade-old initiative to engage Central and Eastern European countries, most of which are from the ex-Soviet bloc.

He called on other EU countries to also abandon the initiative. “From our perspective, it is high time for the EU to move from a dividing 16+1 format to a more uniting and therefore much more efficient 27+1,” Landsbergis said. “The EU is strongest when all 27 member states act together along with EU institutions.”

Lithuania has also accused China of genocide in Xinjiang and announced its intention to establish an alternative trade office in Taiwan, in moves that are certain to anger Beijing. In 2019, Lithuania exported US$37.8 million of products to Taiwan. Lithuania exports to China were worth US$357.76 million during 2020, a multiple of nearly ten times its trade with Taiwan. It can be certain that some Lithuanian businesses will be disappointed at the news.

Chinese experts meanwhile have said the withdrawal of the country from the mechanism won’t have any significant impact on the China-CEEC cooperation.

Liu Zuokui, a research fellow on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, stated “To the contrary, the withdrawal can help reduce ‘some negative assets’ from the mechanism.”

Lithuania’s move came as EU MEP’S voted not to permit any resumption of talks to resurrect the EU-China Investment agreement (CAI) in response to China placing sanctions on various EU officials. That came after the EU imposed sanctions on various Chinese officials following accusations of China committing genocide in Xinjiang Province, in what is fast becoming a race to the bottom of EU-China relations.

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