Lithuania, Australia agree to strengthen cooperation

Lithuanian and Australian ministers of foreign affairs agreed on Wednesday to strengthen cooperation, especially to resist pressures from China.

Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis and his Australian counterpart Marise Payne reached the agreement in Canberra on Wednesday, AP reports.

Lithuania has recently offended the Chinese Communist Party by allowing Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius, with China putting pressure on international companies to sever ties with Lithuania or lose access to the Chinese market.

Australia’s export has suffered due to unofficial and official Chinese trade rules on barley, beef, coal, crayfish and wine that were put in place as relations with Beijing deteriorated.

“For quite a while, Australia was probably one of the main examples where China is using economy and trade as a political instrument or, one might say, even as a political weapon,” Landsbergis noted and added “now Lithuania joins this exclusive club… but it is apparent that we’re definitely not the last ones.”

Payne agreed with her Lithuanian counterpart on the importance of cooperation between like-minded countries for maintaining free trade, security, transparency and stability.

Australia rejects authoritarianism

“There are many colleagues with whom the foreign minister and I work and engage on these issues… the more I think we are sending the strongest possible message about our rejection of coercion and our rejection of authoritarianism,” she added.

Landsbergis noted that the EU has brought a case against China before the World Trade Organization, stressing that the bloc is accusing the country of holding up goods from Lithuania and companies that cooperate with Lithuanian companies.

“We need to remind countries like China or any other country that would wish to use trade as a weapon that like-minded countries across the globe… have tools and regulations that help withstand the coercion and not to give in to… political and economic pressures,” he continued.

Beijing rejected the accusations earlier this week, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian asserting on Tuesday that China’s dealings with Lithuania are in line with WTO rules.

He made the claim that “the so-called coercion of China against Lithuania is purely made out of thin air.”