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Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron seek to ease trade tensions in Paris talks -Dlight News

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Emmanuel Macron stressed the need for more balanced trade ties between Europe and China as he kicked off talks with Xi Jinping in Paris on Monday, with trade as well as the Ukraine war the focus of the Chinese president’s first trip to Europe in five years.

“The international situation very clearly means we need to have a European-Chinese dialogue more than ever,” Macron told Xi in opening remarks at the Élysée Palace, flanked by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

“Europe is at a turning point of its history, which requires us to face and overcome structural difficulties,” Macron added, citing the “need for fair rules for all”.

Xi’s visit coincides with a wave of EU anti-subsidy investigations into Chinese companies, including a blockbuster one into electric vehicles, an industry that France has also sought to protect by backing homegrown and European manufacturers.

His top goal during a six-day visit to Europe that will also take in Serbia and Hungary is to limit the damage from trade tensions, Chinese officials say, at a time when European leaders have divergent approaches towards Beijing.

China’s closeness to Russia during the continuing Ukraine war will also be high on the agenda.

During the state visit, in which the Chinese leader is expected to dine with Macron on Monday evening at the Élysée Palace before visiting the Pyrenees on Tuesday, Xi held out the prospect of greater access to China’s market for French exports such as cosmetics and agricultural goods.

“We welcome more quality French farm products and cosmetics to the Chinese market to meet the ever-growing needs of the Chinese people for a better life,” Xi wrote in a signed article in French newspaper Le Figaro that was reprinted in English by the Communist party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

On Monday, as he met Macron, Xi said China and Europe, “as two important powers in this world”, should remain partners and improve their “strategic co-operation”.

The EU’s investigations into Chinese products were triggered by fears that industrial overcapacity in China could lead to dumping, especially of electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels and other green energy-related goods, on the bloc’s markets.

European cosmetics manufacturers, meanwhile — including big French companies — have become increasingly concerned about market access in China. They have complained that new regulations on everything from animal testing to labelling are either too vague or impractical and are slowing their ability to sell into the Chinese market.

European companies operating in China argue in general that authorities in the country are increasingly imposing administrative barriers in multiple sectors.

Chinese authorities deny that their industries are in “oversupply” and have called western accusations “hype” aimed at justifying protectionism. Beijing has implemented various packages aimed at encouraging foreign investment.

Von der Leyen, who has been a strong advocate of “de-risking” Europe’s commercial relationship with China by diversifying into other markets, on Monday said that the EU and China must “ensure mutual respect, avoid misunderstanding and find joint solutions to global challenges”. 

She noted at the start of the meeting with Macron and Xi that the EU and China had a mutual interest in fighting climate change and in “peace and security and in the effective functioning of the rules-based international order”, particularly given the conflict in the Middle East and tensions in east Asia.

Chinese state media provided blanket coverage of Xi’s visit to France, which will be followed by stops in Serbia and Hungary, countries seen as more closely aligned with Beijing.

Chinese commentators have highlighted remarks that Macron made last year after visiting China that Europe should forge its own strategic independence and become a “third pole” in geopolitics, autonomous of Beijing and Washington.

China has long sought to deepen divisions between Europe and the US, analysts say, with Beijing arguing that Europeans should have their own strategic policies, particularly on issues such as the war in Ukraine.

In his signed article, Xi also touted a recent initiative offering visa-free access to tourists from France and other European countries.

He said China had “fully opened up” its manufacturing sector. In return, he said he hoped that Chinese companies entering France could “operate in a fair and equitable business environment”.

Economists have said that China needs to attract more foreign investment to shore up its economy, which is suffering from a years-long slowdown in the property sector and lagging consumer demand.

The People’s Daily also published an interview with Olivier Malet, chief financial officer of Airbus China, that highlighted the two countries’ “high-tech collaboration”.

Additional reporting by Wenjie Ding in Beijing

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