Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

France's Macron embarks on first China visit

France's Macron embarks on first China visit

French President Emmanuel Macron chose to start his three-day official visit in Xian, very symbolically as he always does, because Xian is the city from which the Silk Roads left for the West.

At Airbus list prices for the single-aisle planes, the deal could be worth at least €15 billion ($18 billion).

Macron, who met President Xi Jinping on Monday evening, said 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.

France welcomes long-term investments from China, but only after screening deals to ensure French assets are not "looted", Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday in Beijing.

Despite their amicable tone, the visit produced no breakthroughs on Europe's mounting frustration over China's market barriers and complaints its exports of low-priced steel are threatening European jobs.

China, expected to overtake the United States as the world's biggest aviation market by as early as 2022, is a battleground for Airbus and Boeing as the two titans seek to dominate the nation's aviation market.

There was speculation that China would place a large plane order with Airbus to reduce trade frictions, but the two sides simply agreed to expand the European aircraft manufacturer's production capacity in China.

When US President Donald Trump visited China in November previous year, Beijing agreed to buy 3,000 Boeing aircraft worth $ 37 billion.

"Excellent news for France's beef producers, who consider the potential of the Chinese market a strategic opportunity", the Interbev producers' association said in a statement.

French producers could nonetheless find China a tough market to crack.

Beyond beef, French officials said talks were continuing with China about its ban on French poultry, imposed in 2015 after an outbreak of bird flu.

Jean Pierre Cabestan, professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University, said while France would like a larger share of the market, Macron was playing a longer game.

He said: "We need a coordinated European approach that gives China more visibility about our agenda".

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