Macron urges China, EU to avoid pitfalls of protectionism

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French president on state visit in China hoping to deal with 'unbalanced, unsatisfying' access to markets

BEIJING French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday offered to open up France to Chinese investment in exchange for greater access to Chinese markets for French companies, warning that existing trade imbalances would lead to protectionism.

Mr Macron is on the second leg of a three-day state visit in China with a delegation of 50 business leaders he hopes will help reduce a €30 billion (S$47.8 billion) trade deficit with China.

"We have an access to markets which is unbalanced, unsatisfying," he said at a start-up incubator in Beijing.

"If we do not deal with this responsibly, the first natural reaction will be to close up on both sides."

Mr Macron, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, said the two countries will fall into a lose-lose situation if continued restrictions on foreign firms in China prompted France and Europe to put a brake on Chinese investment in Europe.

"Let us open up both instead," Mr Macron said.

He is hoping to seal deals, notably in the nuclear, aerospace and agrifood sectors.

French nuclear group Areva is close to signing a commercial deal to build a nuclear reprocessing plant, an official said.

French banking giant BNP Paribas is also expected to set up a joint venture with a Chinese partner in the consumer credit sector, the same official said.

At the start-up incubator, French engineering firm Fives signed a deal with Chinese online retail giant, which will set up a logistics centre in France to source French food and luxury products for sale online in China. agreed to sell €2 billion worth of French products - such as Remy Martin cognac - on its website over the next two years. - REUTERS