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China bets on France in relations with EU

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France should play a key role within the EU to ensure well-functioning relations between the bloc and China, Chinese President Xi Jinping told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Monday where he said China is willing to maintain high-level exchanges with France and welcome its products entering the Chinese market, according to Euractiv.

Macron’s call with Xi comes amid a busy schedule with international partners. On Sunday, he called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and received former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the Elysée Palace on Monday.

“China and the European Union should remain partners for mutually beneficial cooperation,” Xi told Macron, calling on France to play a constructive role within the EU for well-functioning relations between the European Union bloc and China.

China is also willing to maintain high-level exchanges with its French counterpart and to welcome French products entering the Chinese market, Xi added.

Macron responded that foreign companies in the Chinese market should come with fair competition conditions – echoing the several EU companies and countries that have often complained about China’s opaque law on foreign companies.

Xi’s ‘tempting’ words come as China faces an anti-subsidy investigation launched by the European Commission on 4 October, looking into whether China is involved in an alleged illegal subsidisation scheme.

In the call, Macron also expressed “deep concerns” about the Russian-North-Korean military cooperation, which he said could have an impact on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Macron also called on China to maintain relations with the Ukrainian authorities, despite China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and despite Russia’s withdrawal from two arms treaties, the reiteration of its readiness to use nuclear weapons and its nuclear test in November.

Speaking about the war in the Middle East, the leaders agreed it should not escalate regionally.

The two leaders also discussed the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference COP28, with Xi announcing that China will join the Buildings Breakthrough initiative, which sets a zero-emissions target for the construction sector by 2030.

Xi also reasserted China’s commitment to halt Chinese investment in foreign coal power plants and diminish the use of coal energy in China’s energy mix – with Macron seizing the opportunity to reiterate French know-how in low-carbon emission power plants, notably thanks to nuclear energy.

The two agreed to accelerate tourist and academic exchanges between France and China.