VILNIUS – Australia is planning to open a representative office of its Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) in Vilnius, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told a joint press conference with her Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis in Canberra on Wednesday.
"I particularly welcome the support that the minister has provided today for swift progress of the Australia-EU free trade agreement, and I have also indicated to Foreign Minister Landsbergis that Australia will be establishing an Austrade presence in Vilnius in the coming period," she said.
Landsbergis welcomed the decision as an important and timely step.
"The Australian foreign minister highlighted her country’s desire to contribute to the promotion of economic relations between two like-minded states – Lithuania and Australia – and to trade diversification," the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying in a press release.
"The opening of the trade representative office will be an important and concrete step toward achieving these goals," he said.
Founded in 1986, Austrade is the Australian government's agency for promoting trade, investment and education. It has also been responsible for its tourism policy in the past decade.
According to Landsbergis, the prosperity of Lithuania and the world as a whole depends on whether the rules-based international order and free and fair trade is preserved.
"We are in favor of all partnerships that will help to protect it," he said. "We must not succumb to the growing impulses of non-democratic regimes to renege on agreements, to use economic blackmail," he said. "We have to work together to counter this vicious trend".
The minister also tanked Australia for its decision to join consultations at the World Trade Organization over the EU's complaint against China's discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania.
Relations between Lithuania and China turned sour after Vilnius allowed Taiwan to call its representative office "Taiwanese" rather than "Taipei's".
Last November, China officially downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania to the level of chargé d’affaires.
As the diplomatic row escalated, Lithuanian businesses said they were facing various trade restrictions from China, which Vilnius officials described as "undeclared sanctions".