Home International France’s Macron set to press China’s Xi on trade, Ukraine

France’s Macron set to press China’s Xi on trade, Ukraine

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French President Emmanuel Macron will likely urge China’s President Xi Jinping, who arrives in Paris on Sunday for a rare visit, to reduce trade imbalances and to use his influence with Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron stand in front of Chinese and EU flags at a signing ceremony inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 6, 2019. File picture: Reuters, Jason Lee

By John Irish and Ingrid Melander

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron will likely urge China’s President Xi Jinping, who arrives in Paris on Sunday for a rare visit, to reduce trade imbalances and to use his influence with Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Macron’s hopes are unlikely to be easily fulfilled during a time of mounting trade disputes between Europe and China.

France is backing a European Union probe into Chinese electric vehicle exports, and in January, Beijing opened an investigation into mostly French-made imports of brandy, a move widely seen as a tit-for-tat retaliation for a growing set of EU probes.

“We want to obtain reciprocity of exchanges and have the elements of our economic security taken into account,” Macron said in an interview with French newspaper La Tribune on Sunday ahead of Xi’s two-day visit, his first trip to the region in five years.

Xi was due to arrive at around 4pm. (1400 GMT). His official meetings will include talks with Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

The EU’s 27 members – and in particular France and Germany – are divided on their attitude towards China.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not join Macron and Xi in Paris due to prior commitments, sources said.

“In Europe, we are not unanimous on the subject because certain players still see China as essentially a market of opportunities,” Macron said, without naming any countries.

These divisions could undermine the EU’s ability to influence the Asian giant.

France will also seek to make progress on opening the Chinese market to its agricultural exports and resolve issues around the French cosmetic industry’s concerns about intellectual property rights, officials said.

France has been keen to nudge China into pressuring Moscow to halt operations in Ukraine, with little progress apart from Xi’s decision to call Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time shortly after Macron visited Beijing last year.

A French diplomatic source said: “If the Chinese seek to deepen the relationship with European partners, it is really important that they hear our point of view and start taking it seriously.”

On Tuesday, Macron will take Xi to the Pyrenees, a mountainous region dear to him as the birthplace of his maternal grandmother.

Xi will then head to Russia-friendly Serbia and Hungary.

– REUTERS

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