China has suspended imports of beef from Lithuania since Wednesday, the General Administration of Customs said, amid a growing trade spat with the Baltic nation over Taiwan.
Customs did not give a reason for the suspension. The agency typically halts imports of meat if exporting nations report outbreaks of disease in livestock but the Lithuania ban appears to be retribution for hosting a Taiwan envoy under its name.
The move comes after Britain said it would join the US and Australia in backing an EU trade case against China at the World Trade Organization over Beijing’s curbs on Lithuania.
The European Commission says Lithuanian exports to China fell 91% in December compared to the same month in 2020.
Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital Vilnius last year, angering Beijing which regards the self-governed island as its own territory.
Taiwan’s Foreign ministry condemned Beijing’s move as “unilateral” and “bullying”, adding: “We firmly stand together with Lithuania.”
China is the world’s top importer of beef but shipments from Lithuania are minimal, at less than 2,000 tonnes in 2020.
In 2019, Krekenavos Agrofirma, a meat processing company owned by the family of Viktor Uspaskich, founder of the Lithuanian Labour Party, became the first Lithuanian company to be allowed to export beef to China, the Vilnius paper Delfi reported.
Taiwan has stepped up its food imports from Lithuania to help ease the impact of Chinese curbs, most recently rum. The first batch of 1,200 bottles sold out in less than an hour after going on sale this month.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell