Macron's visit to lead ties into new phase

China Daily | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2018-01-08 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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French President Emmanuel Macron's first visit to China is expected to boost commercial ties and deepen economic cooperation between the two sides. During his state visit from Monday to Wednesday, Macron will also seek to expand and strike a balance in bilateral trade.

Despite being important trade partners, Beijing and Paris have found it relatively difficult to expand their commercial and economic ties because of the long-existing bilateral trade structure, which mainly relies on nuclear energy, high-speed railway and the aerospace sector, particularly after the European Union debt crisis broke out and, as a result, the French economy slowed down.

China-France cooperation has made some remarkable achievements, although within the EU, Germany is China's largest trade partner and biggest investment destination. For France, on the other hand, China is the seventh-largest source of foreign investment. Yet this trade imbalance enhances the potential for expanding Sino-France trade and cooperation.

In fact, France needs wider and deeper cooperation with non-EU economies to expedite and enjoy the fruits of its economic reform. France's economic growth rate in 2017 is expected to reach 1.9 percent, its highest since 2011, partly due to Macron's labor and tax reforms. Still, France's trade deficit (€48.1 billion or $57.8 billion in 2016) continues to impede its economic revival.

Apart from bilateral trade, Beijing and Paris are also likely to discuss ways to promote Sino-EU relationsdeepening Sino-French cooperation could be one. Within the EU, however, while France is trying to regain its say and leadership, Germany is trying to put its house in order as Chancellor Angela Merkel struggles to stitch together a ruling coalition after failing to win the required number of seats in the September election to form a government. Macron's sincere efforts to enhance European integration have made headways, though.

Macron is also viewing China's development more objectively, in order to facilitate the EU's development. Indeed, deeper cooperation with China will help revive the economy of not only France but also the EU as a whole. Macron has also shown interest in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. As for the EU's competition with China, it could become a strong external stimulation for the EU member states to further strengthen European integration.

France could also form a "new type of major-country relationship" with China and Russia. Since US President Donald Trump attaches less importance to Europe, the US' traditional partner, and seeks greater benefits from Washington's partnership with other global players, Paris and Brussels have been forced to seek international cooperation beyond the Atlantic alliance.

Also, compared with other European countries, France has always had relatively independent diplomacy when it comes to the US and maintained flexible relations with Russia. In fact, after Macron was elected president in May, French-Russian relations have, to certain extent, improved following a long period of deadlock caused by the Ukraine crisis. Macron's proposal to promote trilateral trade cooperation among China, Russia and the EU is aimed at establishing a new international cooperation and mutual development mechanism.

As long as Macron makes sincere efforts to promote mutual trust and cooperationand doesn't confuse "protect the EU" with trade protectionismChina will gladly contribute to international relations and work with France to build a more peaceful and prosperous Eurasia.



The author is director of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.


Source: China Daily, January 8, 2018.