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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, January 20, 2018

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As political landscape changes, China-France vow better ties

Closer cooperation on multiple issues

Share on Facebook January 9, 2018, Reporter : Sheetal Sukhija , Reader : 65

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BEIJING, China - Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron in Beijing and both the leaders have vowed closer cooperation on multiple issues.

The Presidents of China and France met on Tuesday and vowed to engage better on climate, counter-terrorism and other issues as their governments try to gain influence in a shifting global political landscape.

Macron’s visit was billed as an effort to expand European ties and cooperation with China as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

Further, it comes at a time when China is looking at expanding its power globally and U.S. President Donald Trump promotes more inward-looking policies. 

Earlier, Macron stated that he hoped to forge a wide-ranging partnership on climate and other issues, though he said that would take time.

In his meeting with Jinping, Macron offered to open up the French economy to Chinese investment in exchange for greater access to China's booming markets.

However, the young French leader warned in talks in Beijing that existing trade imbalances would lead to protectionism.

This was Macron’s first state visit of his eight-month-old presidency, and the French president is hoping greater openness from China, coupled with lobbying from the 50-strong business delegation traveling with him.

He is hoping the trip will help him narrow the 30 billion euro trade deficit Paris runs with Beijing.

Even though Macron has brought with him a delegation of French business, finance and industry, including senior executives from Airbus, BNP Paribas, AccorHotels, EDF and LVMH, no major deals were announced on the second leg of his three-day trip. 

Yet, smaller contracts or commitments to go on talking were signed.

According to reports, a French official in Beijing was quoted as saying that BNP Paribas was set to announce plans for a joint-venture on consumer credit.

The official added that French nuclear group Areva had "never been so close" to signing a contract to build a nuclear waste reprocessing plant in China.

Further, last week, officials familiar with the talks said that planemaker Airbus was in talks to sell 100 or more jetliners to China.

An official contract signing ceremony was held on Tuesday but it appeared that an Airbus deal had not been clinched. 

If the deal doesn’t come through, it would be a significant setback for Macron and Europe, although it is possible details will be finalized in the weeks ahead.

Amongst the bilateral agreements signed included the framework deals for Airbus and Areva in China.

Further, Chinese online retail giant JD.com agreed to sell 2 billion euros worth of French products - such as Remy Martin cognac or Evian water - on its website over the next two years. 

JD.com also signed a deal to buy 100 million euros of machinery from French engineering firm Fives.

Meanwhile, addressing members of the French and Chinese business community at a start-up incubator in Beijing, Macron said, "We have an access to markets which is unbalanced, unsatisfying. If we don't deal with this responsibly, the first, natural, reaction will be to close up on both sides."

Over the last eight months of being in office, Macron has emerged as arguably the strongest voice in Europe and has managed to push through reforms to France's labor market.

His decisions have led to a steady rise in business and consumer confidence. 

Macron’s leadership has come at a time when Europe lacks a pioneering force from either German and British leadership.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is bogged down in coalition negotiations, the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is swamped by Brexit talks.

When he arrived in China, the French president declared that "Europe is back,” and announced he intend to visit China every year of his five-year presidency.

According to local news reports, Macron and his 64-year-old wife Brigitte have been a big hit with the Chinese.

On Tuesday, Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of online retailer Alibaba, backed Macron's pitch for more openness.

Ma however, added that both sides had a part to play.

Addressing reporters on the sidelines of a business forum in Beijing, he said, “I think he's right, China should open more, China is opening more. France should open more, China should open more.”

Meanwhile, China's Premier Li Keqiang reportedly told Macron, “We welcome France to expand investment in China and exports of high-grade French products, and we hope the French side will further loosen exports of high-tech products to China.”

Macron meanwhile told President Xi Jinping the two countries would fall into a lose-lose situation if continued restrictions on foreign firms in China prompted France and Europe to put a brake on Chinese investment in Europe.

Macron said, “Let's open up both instead," even though his government has at the same time called for greater scrutiny of Chinese investment in Europe, particularly in sensitive sectors, concerned about protecting French interests and security.

 

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