PARIS (AP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping was the toast of France as he embarked on a state visit - and what better time just days after China ended an anti-dumping, anti-subsidy investigation of French wine.
France wants its relations with China to flourish, not least because of a whopping 25.8 billion-euro ($35.6 billion) trade deficit with what is now the world’s No. 2 economy. That shortfall represents roughly 40 percent of France’s total foreign trade deficit.
French officials said the signing of about 50 commercial accords were being lined up. From nuclear energy to aerospace to agribusiness, and even including a possible sausage deal, President Francois Hollande says they will total about 18 billion euros ($24.8 billion).
“My visit to France comes at a particular moment, and will allow for work with … Hollande and other French leaders to take stock of 50 years of Sino-French relations, and plan the future together,” Xi said following his arrival.
Wednesday will be seen by the French as a step in the right direction, with Chinese automaker Dongfeng signing to a deal to invest 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) in France’s largest carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen. Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters and China’s Avicopter signed a joint agreement for the production of 1,000 new-generation helicopters, while China ordered about 70 European Airbus planes.
China, already a world leader in manufacturing, is looking to scale up production of value-added goods and services and tap into French savoir faire in high-tech industries.
Under President Charles de Gaulle in 1964, France broke with many Western allies and recognized Communist China’s government. Since then, relations have been generally smooth despite differences at times on issues like human rights, Tibet and the civil war in Syria.
China launched a probe of French wine last year amid a dispute between the European Union and China over very cheap Chinese solar panels. The solar panels side of the spat was resolved months ago, but China’s wine probe continued - until last week’s announcement that it had ended.
At Tuesday’s reception at Lyon City Hall, Xi and Chinese envoys nibbled on sausage and chocolates, and sipped Beaujolais.