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France and China sign billions in aviation, energy, agriculture deals

French President Emmanuel Macron with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, 6 November 2019.
French President Emmanuel Macron with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, 6 November 2019. Jason Lee/Reuters

France and China signed €13.5 billion in deals on Wednesday, the last day of a three-day official visit to China by French president Emmanuel Macron. During the visit Macron and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping also pledged continued support for the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, as the United States began its withdrawal from the accord on Tuesday.

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The deals are in the fields of aviation, energy and agriculture, including approval for twenty French companies to export poultry, beef and pork to China. A protocol for poultry exports will be expanded to include duck and geese as well as foie gras, according to a statement from the French president's office.

Macron started his visit by announcing that the European Union had struck a deal with China to prevent counterfeiting of agricultural products like wine and cheese.

The Beijing Gas Group and French utility Engie agreed to collaborate on a liquefied natural gas terminal and storage facility in Tianjin. France's Total will set up a joint venture with China's Shenergy Group to distribute the gas across the Yangtze River Delta.

The two countries also committed to reaching an agreement by 31 January on the construction of a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility by the French company Orano, formerly known as Areva. Plans to build the plant in Lianyungang, in eastern China's Jiangsu province, were cancelled after protests.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua said China would also support its companies’ purchases of Airbus planes. The news agency said the two countries agreed to push for the completion and delivery of some 300 Airbus A350 aircraft, as well as step up investment by Airbus in China.

Deals in the face of US trade war

Following a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, Xi said the two leaders had sent "a strong signal to the world about steadfastly upholding multilateralism and free trade, as well as working together to build open economies."

Macron said China and Europe "share the same feeling that trade war only result in losers,” making reference to a trade war launched against China by the United States last year.

On Wednesday, Macron and Xi declared that the Paris climate pact was "irreversible". In a joint statement, they reaffirmed "their firm support for the Paris accord which they consider as an irreversible process and a compass for strong action on climate".

Macron said he "deplores the choices made by others", without making explicit reference to the US officialising its pullout from the Paris accord on Monday.

"The isolated choice of one or another is not enough to change the course of the world. It only leads to marginalisation," he added.

In a document titled the "Beijing Call for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change", the two leaders committed to "ensure a complete and efficient implementation of the Paris accord".

The document includes a commitment to restoring almost a third of degraded land as well as eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in the medium term.

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