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POSTED | 16:07 PM | 05-01-2018

Macron to visit China next week

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to China next week will be the first by a major European leader since the Communist Party’s recent leadership congress, and he will use it to try to secure greater access for French companies and forge a yet-to-be-defined Asia policy, Reuters reported Friday (Jan 5, 2018).

In his first official visit to the world’s second-largest economy since his election last May, Macron is expected to push for a more level playing field in trade relations, as France tries to cut a 30 billion-euro trade deficit with China.

“There’s an ambition to rebalance, get more reciprocity in access to Chinese markets and fairer competition conditions,” an advisor to Macron said on condition of anonymity.

By reciprocity, French officials mean easier access for foreign companies to regulated or protected sectors of the Chinese economy. Chinese officials say that concept is “relative” in an emerging economy.

Like other Westerners, the French have long complained about China’s rules for foreign investments and its demands for technology transfers and compulsory joint-ventures with local rivals.

French carmakers Renault and Peugeot-Citroen in particular have had to set up partnerships with domestic companies but have had only limited success in gaining a slice of the world’s biggest auto market.

French officials hope the emergence of a prosperous Chinese middle-class will give French companies, which tend to specialize in consumer products, an edge over German rivals more focused on machinery and equipment.

But besides the usual race for market share, Macron’s advisors say he will also defend a common European Union line for freer trade between the blocs, in the face of US President Donald Trump’s protectionist rhetoric.

As an economy minister in the previous Socialist government, Macron led the fight to toughen EU anti-dumping rules imports of cheap Chinese steel surged.

In June, he also urged the Commission to build a system for screening investments 

A delegation of 50 company executives, from nuclear giants EDF and Areva, planemaker Airbus and hotels group Accor, as well as representatives of the French beef, pork and milk lobbies are expected to travel with Macron.

Airbus is in talks to sell 100 or more jetliners to China during the visit, sources said.

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