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France - China

Invest in France, Valls tells Chinese

Manuel Valls, Li Keqiang  29/01/2015.
Manuel Valls, Li Keqiang 29/01/2015. Reuters/Jason Lee

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told Chinese media on a visit to Beijing on Thursday that “France is more open than ever to China, to its investors, its students and its tourists.”

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The French prime minister hopes to even up the lopsided trade relationship between China and France.

China currently exports to France more than two and a half times the amount France exports to China.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Valls supervised the signature of around a dozen deals, including one between EDF and Chinese nuclear operator CGN.

Valls is accompanied by senior executives from major French companies.

He began his visit in the busy port of Tianjin and then visited an Airbus factory. China is a key client for Airbus, buying 25% of the planes manufactured by the European consortium which is based in Toulouse.

The French prime minister welcomed Chinese investment in Club Med, the tourism company, as well as Toulouse airport.

Both developments have been criticised in France, where Toulouse airport workers staged a demonstration today.

Valls said he hoped to encourage greater Chinese investment in France, hoping to match considerable French investment in China.

The French prime minister trumpeted what he called “ambitious reforms” introduced by the government to try to improve French business competitivity.

Political scientist and China specialist, Jean-Philippe Béjabased, who is based in Beijing, thinks that France could gain business in China, particularly in the field of urbanisation.

"Many airbus contracts have already been made and now Airbus are being assembled in Tianjin", he notes. "So I guess that Valls will try, like hollande, to sell french expertise on urbanisation as china has a very big urbanisation programme. And also in foodstuffs, there are very serious problems of food security in china. So maybe Valls will try to develop these fields of expertise."

However Valls will have some axes to grind on the visit. He is expected to raise the issue of obstructions to European imports, a subject which causes particular irritation in the French food and agriculture sector.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and ahead of an international conference on climate in Paris in December, Valls will also discuss the signature of a possible worldwide accord on the subject.

It is unclear whether the French prime minister plans to discuss human rights with Chinese officials, or mention the case of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel peace prizewinner.

Tomorrow Valls will talk with the Chinese President, before visiting Shanghai on Saturday.

The visit rounds off a year of events to mark the 50th anniversary of official diplomatic relations between France and China.
 

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