Australia to join WTO talks on China-EU trade row

The Australian trade minister said on Saturday that Australia would seek to be included in negotiations about a trade dispute between the European Union and China that the EU has filed at the World Trade Organization.

On Thursday, the EU filed a complaint with the WTO, accusing China of discriminatory trade practises against Lithuania, which it claims endangers the single market’s integrity.

After allowing Taiwan to construct a de facto embassy in Vilnius, China downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and urged businesses to cut ties with the Baltic nation of 2.8 million people.

China’s restrictions include refusing to clear Lithuanian goods through Chinese customs, rejecting Lithuanian import applications, and pressuring EU companies to remove Lithuanian material from their supply chains when exporting to China.

China considers Taiwan, a self-governing island, to be its own territory.

After Canberra barred Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network in 2018, reinforced laws against foreign political meddling, and demanded for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, relations between Australia and China, its main trade partner, deteriorated.

Beijing retaliated by blocking ministerial relations and slapping taxes on coal, meat, barley, and wine, among other Australian exports.

In the last 18 months, Australia has lodged two WTO complaints against China’s taxes on bottled wine imports and barley imports.

Australia’s Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, stated in December that China has used “economic pressure” on the country.

“Australia has a significant interest in the concerns raised in the European Union’s dispute with China… and will request to participate in these consultations,” said Trade Minister Dan Tehan in a statement.

“Australia rejects the use of economic coercion, as well as discriminatory and restrictive trade practises that impair the international trading system’s rules-based framework.”

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