CHINA-MEETING: Xi Meets with Macron, Merkel & Juncker

Macron said the period of European naivety is over

Chinese president Xi Jinping, French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker acknowledged that the competition and rivalry between China and the EU could be healthy, but emphasised the need for equal access to each other's markets. "We shouldn't let suspicions lead us to be constantly looking backwards". Officials said the presence of Merkel and Juncker for the state visit was unprecedented.

Merkel sounded a note of caution about how much the European Union and China could achieve on their own, however.

"But when it comes to big world business, there are already trade relations with China and between all the other European countries and China, there is nothing odd about Italy coming before Germany or France".

Among other risks, the commission warned about the distorting effects of Chinese subsidies to its industrial groups, and European firms being forced to transfer technology to their Chinese subsidiaries.

France stands ready to actively participate in the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the second China International Import Expo (CIIE), Macron said, adding that his country supports vigorously promoting bilateral exchanges and cooperation in education, culture, sports, tourism, military and defense affairs.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plan, championed by Xi, aims to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the old Silk Road. He added that it was important that the Silk Road initiative should benefit European citizens too.

Another point of contention is the use of telecom giant Huawei's next-generation 5G mobile technology, which was not raised by the leaders on Tuesday.

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"The European Union is based on respect for individual freedoms and fundamental rights", Macron said.

"China is willing to work with France to inherit the past and create the future, enable our close and enduring comprehensive strategic partnership to continue leading the way, and make more historic contributions to building an open, inclusive, clean and attractive world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity", Xi said.

A full China-EU summit will take place in Brussels on 9 April.

The value of the French deal also provides some interesting perspective regarding Italy's recent Belt and Road agreement with China, struck as Xi visited Rome a couple days ago.

All the agreements, including one on French exports to China of frozen chicken, amount to a total of some $40 billion.

"Macron is not happy to see China win so many prizes in Rome, so he has invented a weird European format by inviting Merkel and Juncker as a counterbalance to show that he is the driving force behind European integration", said one Paris-based Asian diplomat.

The country opened its market to French beef products following Macron's January 2018 state visit to China.

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