Busy agenda for Macron's China visit

French President Emmanuel Macron left Paris for China for his first state visit to China.

French President Emmanuel Macron left Paris for China yesterday afternoon for his first state visit to China.

During the three-day trip which begins today, Macron plans to seek a “strategic partnership” with China, notably on terrorism and climate change, an official in the French president’s office at the Elysee Palace said.

In particular, France is hoping China will join it in playing a decisive role in implementing the Paris accord to fight climate change after the United States pullout pledged by President Donald Trump.

China is the world’s biggest investor in clean-energy technologies.

Macron also said last week that China had a key leadership role to play in easing the crisis provoked by North Korea’s nuclear program.

Macron will also ask China to help to support the G5 Sahel force being created with forces from Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, tasked with fighting jihadist forces spread across an area of desert the size of Europe.

China has already become a key business partner across Africa, with total investments reaching US$31.6 billion in 2016 in projects including railways, highways, ports and power stations.

They are part of the extensive network of transport links President Xi Jinping is developing as part of the Belt and Road initiative for increasing trade.

The state visit will be the first by a European leader since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held in October.

China has praised Macron’s decision to make it the first Asian nation he visits. 

“We hope this visit will reinforce mutual political confidence and strategic communication,” China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said last week.

Macron will be traveling with a delegation of business executives hoping for a bonanza of contracts, including from AccorHotels, LVMH, Airbus and BNP Paribas. “We will be signing an exceptional number of strategic deals, about 50,” the French official said, including sales of Airbus planes and Safran jet engines.

State nuclear giant Areva is also negotiating a contract to build a reprocessing site for radioactive waste.

France is pushing to “rebalance” its trade relations with China. Although China is France’s second-biggest supplier of goods, it ranks eighth in terms of the top buyers of French goods.

“Paris intends to seek a rebalancing and market access, for example in financial services,” the official at the Elysee Palace said, at a time when major French banks are hoping to tap into the rapidly expanding Chinese market.

The two countries also plan to announce a China-French investment fund worth 1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion) which would help midsize companies, mainly from France, get a foothold in China.

Accompanied by his wife Brigitte, Macron will begin his visit in the northwestern city of Xi’an, “an important symbol because it is the cradle of Chinese civilization, and the starting point for the ancient Silk Roads,” the Elysee official said.

After visiting the terracotta statues of warriors near the city excavated from the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang, who ruled from 221BC to 210BC, Macron will give a speech on the future of China-France relations.

An agreement is also expected to be finalized for a temporary exhibition in Shanghai by Paris’s Pompidou Centre for modern art.

Not least, Macron will also be exporting his “Revolution” — the campaign manifesto published in 2016 ahead of his sweep to the presidency.

The Chinese edition of the book, in which France’s youngest president lays out his vision for France, hits bookstores today.

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