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Emmanuel Macron cosies up to Xi Jinping as EU plans to deliver hammer blow to China

In a diplomatic move that defies the European Union’s intentions to tighten the screws on China’s economic activities, France has emphasised its commitment to maintaining robust ties with Beijing. The French Foreign Minister, Stéphane Séjourné, made the stance clear during his visit to Beijing on Monday, opting for a strategy of economic rebalancing rather than decoupling from China.

“It is not desirable to decouple from China,” Séjourné stated firmly during a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. The French diplomat’s remarks signal France’s divergent stance from EU directives aiming to assert greater control over trade relations with China.

Séjourné underscored the necessity of ensuring a “healthy and sustainable” trade environment, a sentiment that resonates with European leaders’ concerns about the current trade deficits with China.

“The rebalancing of our economic partnership is a priority, as it is for our European partners,” Séjourné reiterated, echoing sentiments expressed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during his recent visit to Beijing.

At the heart of the EU’s apprehensions lie worries about the influx of low-priced Chinese electric vehicles potentially disrupting European markets and affecting employment opportunities. The EU has launched investigations into whether Chinese government subsidies for electric vehicles confer unfair advantages to Chinese exporters. Moreover, European businesses operating in China have voiced concerns over recent regulatory changes, citing increased risks associated with investments and operations in the country.

Chinese officials have voiced apprehensions about the EU’s “de-risking” strategy, fearing it might disrupt business sentiment and hinder bilateral trade. Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, expressed hope that the EU’s measures would not impede cooperation, emphasising that China and Europe are partners, not adversaries.

“I believe the facts have proved and will continue to prove that China constitutes opportunities to Europe, rather than risks,” Wang said, aiming to allay European concerns.

Wang Yi also confirmed China’s willingness to import more “high-quality French products and services” and assured efforts to address the grievances raised by European companies, including concerns regarding data transfer restrictions.

Despite the diplomatic exchanges aimed at preserving economic ties, potential trade tensions loom large. Notably absent from discussions were mentions of a Chinese anti-dumping investigation into French brandy imports, alongside the EU’s probe into electric vehicles—a confluence of events that could escalate into a full-fledged trade war if not managed effectively.

As France seeks to navigate a delicate balance between its European commitments and bilateral interests with China, the stage is set for intricate diplomatic manoeuvres in the coming months. The looming visit of Chinese leader Xi Jinping to France later this spring adds another layer of significance to the evolving dynamics between the two nations.


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