Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius met with US Vice-President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday and said he received pledges the US would open its meat product market for Lithuania and also provide security guarantees to deter Russia.
PM Butkevičius and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House Photo Ludo Segers
© Ludo Segers @ The Lithuania Tribune

According to the prime minister, the assurances were given realizing that the Kremlin is trying to divide NATO and the European Union. The Lithuanian delegation voiced its preferences on NATO military measures and also pledged the Baltic country's support to Americans fighting the Islamic State group.

Meat Market

The Lithuanian prime minister said the US vice-president said the final decision on allowing imports of Lithuanian meat products into the United States would be made as soon as possible. "The vice-president said we would get the permission very soon. We were assured," Butkevičius told BNS by phone from Washington.

The US market could open up new opportunities for Lithuanian exporters facing problems due to the existing Russian embargo Moscow put in place after the West imposed sanctions against Russia in response to its occupation of the Crimea and support to separatists in eastern Ukraine.

It was reported recently that the final audit report on equivalence has been drafted by the United States Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), confirming Lithuania’s compliance with the requirements of the United States and its equivalence to the US’s control system.

The Lithuanian prime minister said that under the American law the coordination of all procedures would take up to three months, although the US vice-president said the period could be shorter.
NATO Shield

Butkevičius said he presented during the meeting the Lithuanian government's decision on increasing country's defence spending, and his delegation also submitted specific proposals on ways to implement NATO's decisions on additional security measures in Eastern Europe.

The prime minister said he thanked the United States for deploying company-sized contingents of American troops in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland earlier this year in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

"I thanked on my behalf and on behalf of the people of Lithuania as it provides certain assurance to for people. The vice-president positively evaluated our efforts," Butkevičius told BNS.

He also expressed hope that the US Congress would back the American president's initiative to provide one billion US dollars for security needs in Eastern Europe.

"We did not get into the details. We presented certain documents and voiced our preferences. Security and defence of the Baltic states are key to us and that position was expressed. The vice-president said the US really minds what it says about the defence of the Baltic states," the Lithuanian prime minister said.

He also underlined the importance of the US-EU free trade agreement, currently under negotiation, especially taking into consideration the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to divide NATO and European countries.

"Putin's goal is to divide NATO and the next step is to divide the European Union. We cannot let that happen," the Lithuanian prime minister said.

American Gas

According to Butkevičius, the US vice-president also welcomed Lithuania's plans to build a LNG terminal which could theoretically receive American gas in the future. The first export-suitable terminals in the United States should be put into operation by the end of 2015. US companies need the US administration's permits to export gas into countries, including Lithuania, which have not signed free trade agreements with the US. Some of those companies already have such permits.

"The vice-president was very optimistic about the LNG terminal. It was obvious that he has comprehensive information and almost knows the terminal's all capabilities by heart. (…) We will have all the opportunities to hold direct negotiations with the companies that already have licenses," the Lithuanian prime minister said.

Lithuania currently imports all gas it needs from Russian gas giant Gazprom. The Baltic country will be supplied with part of gas via the new terminal by Norway's Statoil from next year.

Lithuanian instructors in Iraq?

During the meeting, the Lithuanian delegation officially offered its support to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group that has taken control of territories in Iraq and Syria. Lithuania pledged humanitarian assistance and could also send military instructors to train Iraqi forces fighting IS jihadists.

"There were two proposals on humanitarian aid and instructors," Butkevičius told BNS.
The international coalition includes the United States, United Kingdom and France which are already carrying out anti-IS air attacks. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia have also sent in their fighter jets.

Will open the door to the OECD

Accompanying the Lithuanian prime minister during his US visit, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius said the US vice-president pledged political support to Lithuania in its pursuit to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, often dubbed the "club of the rich countries."

"The US vice-president underlined that we could expect the US' support on our path to membership in this organization. We feel optimistic after receiving support from major global players today," the minister told BNS by phone from Washington.

Lithuania hopes to launch official OECD membership talks in May and join the organization in 2017 or 2018. Estonia became an OECD member in 2010. The organization now has 34 members.

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