China signs 18 deals with France to expand economic cooperation, opening up wider for France, Europe

China and France have signed 18 cooperation agreements between government agencies, covering areas such as aviation, agriculture, people-to-people exchanges, green development and SME cooperation during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to France.

At the closing ceremony of a key business council meeting in Paris on Monday, the Chinese top leader vowed to enrich the economic and trade dimensions of the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership, open the Chinese market wider to create more opportunities for companies from France, Europe and beyond, while urging China and France to jointly oppose attempts to turn business relations into political, ideological or security issues.

The remarks and cooperation agreements underscore China’s open and cooperative attitude, as well as its sincerity and goodwill to foster China-France and China-Europe cooperation and represent a positive signal for European entrepreneurs and a stabilizer to China-Europe trade ties against decoupling push, experts said.

China will work with France to enrich the economic and trade dimensions of the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership, deepen China-Europe mutually beneficial cooperation, and remains ready to join hands with France to tackle global challenges, President Xi made the remarks at the closing ceremony of the sixth meeting of the China-France Business Council in Paris local time Monday.

China will further open up the service sector including telecommunication and medical services, and open its market wider to create more opportunities for companies from France, Europe and beyond, Xi said, according to a readout released on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

Xi also said that China and Europe are two major forces in building a multipolar world, two big markets that promote globalization, and two great civilizations that advocate cultural diversity.

China-Europe relations are crucial for peace, stability and prosperity of the world. The two sides should always define China-Europe relations as a comprehensive strategic partnership, continue to enhance political mutual trust, remove various distractions, and jointly oppose attempts to turn business relations into political, ideological or security issues, Xi said.

Xi’s speech sent a clear signal that China’s market is open and inclusive, and that China seeks mutual achievements and win-win cooperation with France and the EU, Zhang Jian, a vice president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The remarks played a significant role in promoting stable, long-term cooperation between China and France as well as China and Europe against decoupling pushes, Zhang said.

New stage of cooperation

Some key highlights of economic and trade cooperation include collaboration in agriculture, artificial intelligence (AI) and green development.

In terms of agricultural cooperation, China will continue to make full use of the “French farm to Chinese dining table” whole-chain rapid coordination mechanism, and bring more cheese, ham, wine and other quality agricultural products from France to the dining tables of Chinese families.

In terms of AI cooperation, China and France have agreed to enhance global governance of AI to promote the development of AI for the public good and effectively address the risks associated with AI, according to a joint statement.

China also signed agreements with French departments to deepen collaboration in green development and aviation.

The deals highlight the successful progress of traditional cooperation projects between China and France. At the same time, they also point to great potential for new areas, innovative models, fostering growth in various sectors, experts said.

“The economic and trade achievements of this visit are very fruitful, reflecting the upgrading and expansion of China-French economic and trade cooperation on the existing basis,” Cui Hongjian, a professor with the Academy of Regional and Global Governance with Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Although nuclear energy and aerospace industries have become landmark projects of China-French economic and trade cooperation over the years, the cooperation directions covered in the deals have expanded into some new areas, offering new opportunities, Cui said.

The 18 agreements signed during the state visit were thrilling as they precisely identified the key aspects of development between China, France and Europe, which include high-tech collaborations and green development, Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Zhao said there is potential for France and the EU to increase collaboration with China in high-end technology and agricultural products, as the increasing living standards and purchasing power of Chinese people align with this trend.

The signing of the deals comes as China and France are celebrating the 60th anniversary of China-France relations, during which the trade ties between the two sides have flourished.

The bilateral trade has expanded by nearly 800 times since the establishment of diplomatic relations, reaching $78.9 billion. Cumulative two-way investment has exceeded $26 billion. More than 2,000 French companies have woven themselves into the fabric of the Chinese market. China is the largest trading partner of France outside the EU, and France is a major EU trading partner of China.

Rejection of decoupling

The collaboration between Chinese and the French business sectors also demonstrates a rejection of the decoupling efforts pushed by the US. This collaboration is anticipated to pave the way for a positive and mutually beneficial relationship between China and Europe, experts said.

French companies are interested in collaborating with Chinese companies in various fields, despite the push of decoupling and cutting off industrial chains from the US, they said.

survey of French companies in China conducted by the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China in 2023 showed that members’ willingness to operate in China over the coming three years had increased, with 47 percent saying they planned to further invest in the Chinese market.

Practical cooperation between China and France is a key aspect of China-EU relations, and it contributes positively to fostering mutually beneficial partnerships between China and Europe, Cui said.

While Europe may face competitive pressures from China in some areas, it is essential to manage this competition in a healthy and constructive manner and turn it into opportunities for cooperation between China and Europe, Cui said.

“Efforts should be made to control the competition within a reasonable range and prevent it from spilling over. At the same time, both sides can use their complementary advantages and form a strong alliance in third party cooperation,” Cui said.

It is important for the European side to recognize the benefits of economic and trade cooperation between China and Europe, rather than resorting to tactics of suppression toward China, which could harm the stability and development of both parties, Zhao said.

“It is crucial for Europe to adhere to its own principles and cultivate its own strengths in certain market sectors,” Zhao said.
(Global Times)

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