China seeks closer co-op with France

Updated: 2012-07-11 02:08

By Li Xiang in Paris and Zhao Shengnan in Beijing (China Daily)

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China seeks more balanced trade relations and new opportunities for cooperation with France, Chinese leaders told visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday.

Premier Wen Jiabao said China, which is actively expanding domestic demand, would like to import more high-value-added goods from France to balance bilateral trade, and jointly tackle the global recession and debt crisis in Europe.

China seeks closer co-op with France

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao meets with visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Beijing, July 10, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

The new French leadership will consolidate ties with China and explore new potential for cooperation to strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between both sides, said Fabius.

He is the first French government official to visit China since Francois Hollande was elected president in May.

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang urged France to loosen restrictions on high-end technology exports to China, saying the two big economies should upgrade cooperation and develop international markets together through joint research and joint venture.

Both sides should promote coordination of international affairs and cooperation in the fields of aviation, nuclear power and new energy, he said.

"A shrinking trade surplus with France and a narrowing gap in bilateral investment will contribute to more balanced economic relations between the two sides," said Wu Xilin, commercial counselor of the Chinese embassy in Paris.

China seeks closer co-op with France

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang meets with visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Beijing, July 10, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's export to France has been hit hard due to weak French demand and a stronger yuan amid the eurozone debt crisis. But the crisis has not deterred Chinese enterprises from expanding their investment footprint in the country, Wu said.

China's exports to France stood at $8.67 billion in the first four months of this year, a year-on-year decrease of 2.1 percent. But China's imports from France recorded a strong growth of 10.5 percent to $7.52 billion, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Chinese companies should continue to increase direct investment in France, taking the advantage of the stronger yuan and the wider use of the currency in the world, said Wu, adding that great cooperative potential lies in sectors of urbanization, alternative energy, sustainable development and environmental conservation.

The total value of China's investment in France reached $1.8 billion by the end of 2011, compared with the $11.6 billion of French investment in China, according to the Chinese embassy in France.

"China has a strong demand for high-end technology and equipment in those areas and hopes to deepen cooperation with France, which has the technological know-how," Wu said.

China hopes France can gradually loosen restrictions on high-end technology export to China and create a more favorable investment environment for Chinese enterprises in France, he said.

At a time of economic slowdown and eurozone crisis, Fabius' visit signals the importance of France-China relations, said Shen Wei, a professor at the France-based Essca School of Management, adding that building good political and economic relations with China will certainly boost the Hollande administration's diplomatic credentials.

"Economic issues will certainly be high on the agenda, as France will be eager to lure China to purchase French products and encourage China's investment in the French economy," said Shen.

But concerns remain that the French socialist government may take a tougher stance than its predecessor toward China on the issues of trade and currency.

Fabius' visit to China indicates that the new French government has put China-France relations on its agenda and wants to interact with Beijing as soon as possible, said Tao Yun, an independent political observer in France.

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