Macron Secures Lucrative Trade Contracts During China Visit

By Fayçal Benhassain | November 7, 2019 | 5:43pm EST
French President Emmanuel Macron in Beijing. (Photo by Jason Lee/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron in Beijing. (Photo by Jason Lee/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Paris ( – French President Emmanuel Macron secured $15 billion worth of trade contracts during his visit to China this week, having spoken beforehand of his goal to deepen trade relations with the world's second largest economy in the midst of the trade war between Beijing and Washington.

On his second visit to China, Macron took with him the E.U.’s commissioner for agriculture and Germany’s education minister, in a show of European unity. France and the E.U. Commission want China to open up its economy to European businesses, goods and investment.

He was also accompanied by a delegation of French business leaders. The deals struck covered energy, agriculture, and aeronautics, and the two leaders also reportedly discussed a proposal for a French company to build a nuclear fuel treatment plant in China.

French analysts ahead of the visit said Chinese President Xi Jinping was seeking to strengthen contacts with Europe, at a time China’s economy was slowing because of the trade tensions with the U.S. (Negotiators are working on an interim deal in a bid to end the costly trade war.)

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a China expert at the Hong Kong Baptist University, said “there is no doubt that the American [trade] offensive pushes the Chinese to move closer to France, but also to Germany and the United Kingdom.”

“However, the Europeans would be naive to believe that they can join China against [President] Trump," he said.

Human rights concerns are also a significant factor in China’s relations with the United States. Last week, Macron’s office said in a statement he would raise during his visit sensitive issues such as the repression of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, and the protests in Hong Kong.

China’s foreign ministry then warned that Hong Kong and Xinjiang were China’s domestic affairs and therefore “it would be irrelevant that the topics be on the diplomatic agenda.”

At the end of the visit, Macron said that he had discussed “and expressed our concerns” about the situation in Hong Kong, adding he had urged both sides in the dispute “to dialogue, to restraint and to work for a decrease in the violence.”

It’s not clear whether he raised the Uighur crisis, but it was not raised, by Macron or reporters, during a press conference in Beijing.

The U.S. and others accuse China of holding more than one million Uighur and other minority Muslims in internment camps in Xinjiang. China calls the facilities “vocational education and training centers” which are designed to “deradicalize” Muslims as part of a campaign against terrorism and extremism.

Macron’s visit included a stop at the Shanghai International Import Fair, where he met with Xi, followed by more formal talks with the Chinese leader in Beijing.

They both reaffirmed their commitment to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a pledge coming just days after the Trump administration announced it was going ahead with a one-year process of formally withdrawing from the accord.

Macron and Xi called the agreement “irreversible,” and said in a joint statement that “biodiversity loss and climate change [threaten] global peace and stability.”

Macron has promised to visit China every year during his term as president.


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