Taiwan sets up $200m fund for Lithuania after China row

Flowers are seen in the lobby of the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, whose opening infuriated Beijing, in November 2021
AFP

Taiwan said Wednesday it would set up a fund with $200 million (176 million euros) to invest in Lithuania, as businesses there complain of losses from a China-Lithuania row.

Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius in November under its own name — a significant diplomatic departure that set off a bitter dispute with China.

“Taiwan is setting up an investment fund with an initial funding of 200 million US dollars to invest in Lithuanian industries which are strategic for both Lithuania and Taiwan,” said Eric Huang, the head of the Taiwanese representative office in Lithuania.

He said the investment was part of Taiwan’s plan to develop economic ties with Lithuania following pressure from China.

Huang said the fund would invest in semiconductor, laser, biotechnology and similar Lithuanian industries, with the first investments expected this year.

The Baltic EU state defied pressure from Beijing and allowed Taipei to open a de facto embassy.

That prompted retaliation, Lithuanian business leaders and officials say, in the form of blocked exports from Lithuania and other economic restrictions.

A Taiwanese liquor company said this week that it has snapped up more than 20,000 bottles of Lithuanian rum that were blocked from China.

Huang said that 120 cargo containers that were affected had also been bought by Taiwan.

The United States, which has been increasingly vocal in its concerns about Beijing, has also offered support to Lithuania.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in a telephone call with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, promised cooperation to “address coercive diplomatic and economic behaviour,” her office said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting in Washington with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said that the two nations shared concerns about Beijing’s efforts to “bully” Lithuania.

“This isn’t just about Lithuania, but about how every country in the world should be able to determine its own foreign policy free from this kind of coercion,” Blinken told a joint news conference.

“And the United States will work with our allies and partners, including Germany, to stand up against intimidation like this from China by strengthening our economic resilience, diversifying our supply chains and countering all forms of economic blackmail,” he said.

The Lithuanian government has held firm although President Gitanas Nauseda this week said it had been “a mistake” to allow Taipei to open an office in Vilnius using the name Taiwan.

Beijing baulks at any international support for Taiwan lest it lends a sense of international legitimacy to the island, which it considers part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize by force if necessary.

Lithuania plans to open its own trade office in Taiwan in the first months of 2022.

The solidarity comes as Taiwan keeps losing the dwindling number of small nations that still recognise it, with Nicaragua switching sides last month.

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