Brussels: The EU has said that it had requested the establishment of panels at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for two of its ongoing trade disputes with China.

"One concerns the legality of the trade restrictions that China has had in place against Lithuanian exports and EU exports containing Lithuanian content since December 2021. The other concerns the legality of China restricting EU holders of high-tech patents from accessing EU courts to effectively protect and enforce their rights," the European Commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

In both cases, the EU said the Chinese measures are highly damaging to European businesses. Furthermore, China's discriminatory measures against Lithuania affect intra-EU trade and intra-EU supply chains and they impact the functioning of the EU internal market.

The Commission said the removal of these measures is in both the economic and strategic interest of the EU.

Since December 2021, China has applied discriminatory and coercive measures against exports from Lithuania and against exports of EU products containing Lithuanian content. These have included rejections of Lithuanian imports by Chinese customs authorities, import restrictions affecting multinational companies that use inputs from Lithuania and a cut in Chinese exports to Lithuania.

The 27-member bloc said that China also suddenly formalised complete import bans on alcohol, beef, dairy, logs, and peat shipped from Lithuania as part of the same group of measures, using phytosanitary arguments for doing so. When asked for further explanations, China failed to prove that these bans were justified.

"Chinese customs statistics show that trade from Lithuania to China dropped 80 per cent from January to October 2022 as compared with the previous year. By requesting a WTO panel, the EU is protecting its Member States against China's discriminatory measures, which the EU considers to be in breach of WTO rules," the commission said.

Starting in August 2020, Chinese courts have issued decisions - known as "anti-suit injunctions" - preventing companies with high-tech patents from effectively protecting their technologies in non-Chinese courts, including EU courts.

These "anti-suit injunctions" unduly limit the ability of high-tech patent holders, for example, a European company which owns mobile phone technology, from going to an EU court to settle a dispute with a possible licensee.

After the request for the establishment of WTO panels, the trade body's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) will discuss the EU's request at its next meeting on December 20, 2022.

China can oppose the establishment of a panel once. If it does so, the EU will renew its request and the panel will be established at the 30 January 2023 meeting of the DSB. Panel proceedings can last up to one and a half years.