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China's Xi praises French ties as Macron prepares to talk trade

Published 05/04/2024, 08:03 PM
Updated 05/05/2024, 11:02 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron stand in front of Chinese and EU flags at a signing ceremony inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China November 6, 2019.  REUTERS/Jason Lee/Pool/File Photo

By Michel Rose and Noemie Olive

PARIS (Reuters) -President Xi Jinping lauded China's ties with France as an international model on Sunday as he arrived in Paris for a rare visit against a backdrop of mounting trade disputes with the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to urge Xi to reduce trade imbalances and to use his influence with Russia over the war in Ukraine. China's President is due to meet Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.

Xi, who was welcomed in Paris by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, said in a statement released on his arrival that ties between China and France were "a model for the international community of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries with different social systems".

France is backing a European Union probe into Chinese electric vehicle exports, and in January, Beijing opened an investigation into mostly French-made imports of brandy, a move widely seen as a tit-for-tat retaliation for EU probes.

"We want to obtain reciprocity of exchanges and have the elements of our economic security taken into account," Macron said in an interview with French newspaper La Tribune ahead of Xi's two-day visit, his first trip to the region in five years.

The EU's 27 members - in particular France and Germany - are divided on their attitude towards China.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not join Macron and Xi in Paris due to prior commitments, sources said.

"In Europe, we are not unanimous on the subject because certain players still see China as essentially a market of opportunities," Macron said, without naming any countries.

These divisions could undermine the EU's ability to influence the Asian giant.

France will also seek to make progress on opening the Chinese market to its agricultural exports and resolve issues around the French cosmetic industry's concerns about intellectual property rights, officials said.

China may announce an order for around 50 Airbus aircraft during Xi's visit, but it remains uncertain whether it will be a new deal, people familiar with the negotiations said.

France has been keen to nudge China into pressuring Moscow to halt operations in Ukraine, with little progress apart from Xi's decision to call President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time shortly after Macron visited Beijing last year.

© Reuters. France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, China's President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan walk under umbrellas upon their arrival for an official two-day state visit, at Orly airport, south of Paris on May 5, 2024. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in France on May 5, 2024, for a state visit hosted by Emmanuel Macron where the French leader will seek to push his counterpart on issues ranging from Ukraine to trade.     STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/Pool via REUTERS

"If the Chinese seek to deepen the relationship with European partners, it is really important that they hear our point of view and start taking it seriously," a French diplomatic source said.

Macron will take Xi to the Pyrenees, a mountainous region dear to the French President as the birthplace of his maternal grandmother, on Tuesday before Xi heads to Russia-friendly Serbia and Hungary.

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