PARIS (Reuters) – France and China will sign deal worth billions of euros as part of a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday. However, Paris will also take the opportunity to tackle Beijing's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 25, 2019 at the Paris Elysée Palace in Paris. REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes
President Emmanuel Macron wants to form a united European front to face Beijing's progress.
After meeting with Xi later on Monday, the two will hold further talks on Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU leader Jean-Claude Juncker.
Xi arrived in France after a visit to Italy, the first Western power to support China's ambitious Belt and Street initiative, while Rome seeks to revive its troubled economy.
Xi's Belt and Road Initiative plan aims to connect China by land and water with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa through an infrastructure network on the ancient Silk Road.
France says that the Silk Road cooperation must work both ways.
An official in the Macron office said that significant progress has been expected in opening up the Chinese market for certain agricultural products, especially poultry.
French officials have also expressed hope that a multi-billion dollar deal for China could be completed on the purchase of dozens of Airbus aircraft.
In a Sunday column published in Le Figaro, Xi said he wanted Paris to cooperate with the Belt and Road project and called for more trade and investment in sectors such as nuclear, aviation and agriculture.
"French investors are welcome to share development opportunities in China. I also hope that Chinese companies in France can perform better and make a greater contribution to economic and social development, "he wrote.
French officials refer to China as a challenge and partner. France must pay particular attention to any attempt by China to use foreign technology for its own resources.
The EU is already considering a more defensive strategy for China, fueled by Beijing's slow opening of the economy, Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and sentiment in European capitals that Beijing has not fought for free trade.
"An awakening was necessary," said Macron on Friday in Brussels. "For years, we had an uncoordinated approach and China took advantage of our businesses."
As part of efforts to advance this approach, Macron will host Merkel and Juncker on Tuesday to meet with Xi to deviate from a purely bilateral approach to relations.
"Macron is not happy that China has won so many awards in Rome, so he invented a bizarre European format by countering Merkel and Juncker to show that he is the driving force behind European integration." said the Paris-based Asian diplomat.
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Additional coverage by Marine Pennetier and Richard Lough; Editing Angus MacSwan