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A New High
Sino-French cooperation advances with tangible results across many dimensions
By Wen Qing  ·  2019-11-15  ·   Source: | NO.47 NOVEMBER 21, 2019
President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron in Yuyuan Garden, a classical Chinese garden in Shanghai, on November 5 (XINHUA)

Located in downtown Shanghai, Yuyuan Garden, which was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), is a classical Chinese garden with an exquisite design. On the evening of November 5, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan invited visiting French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron to tour the garden and have dinner at one of its pavilions.

Macron began his second state visit to China in Shanghai on November 4. During his three-day trip, he attended the Second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai and held talks with Xi in Beijing.

Macron's trip, which marked the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, brought Sino-French ties to a new high, something that is expected to act as a stabilizer in today's volatile global landscape.

Closer ties

During Macron's visit, China and France agreed on several cooperation deals, including 24 contracts in aviation, agriculture, finance and industry, trade deals worth over $10 billion, and a joint program to rebuild Notre Dame cathedral. They also renewed their commitments to pragmatic cooperation on bilateral and multilateral issues, including enhancing trade, financial and cultural ties, upholding multilateralism and addressing climate change.

Macron has pledged to visit China at least once a year during his mandate. Talking about the choice of Shanghai as the first stop of his recent trip, he said, "From here I see the openness and future of China." He presented Xi with a bottle of French wine produced in 1978, the year China introduced its reform and opening-up policy.

China has promised to open wider to the world and provide a better business environment. The CIIE highlights these goals as a platform for sharing the booming Chinese consumer market with foreign businesses. France was one of the guest countries of honor at the Second CIIE, where over 50 innovation-themed activities took place at the French booth. A number of French companies, ranging from luxury giant LVMH to Air Liquide, participated, looking to attract more Chinese customers.

The French Government intends to beef up trade with China, which was a major aim of Macron's trip, Cui Hongjian, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), said.

During their meeting in Beijing, Macron told Xi that French companies are eager to take advantage of China's new opening-up drive to expand their presence in the Chinese market, increase exports of agricultural products and strengthen cooperation in areas such as aviation, aerospace and civilian nuclear energy, as well as sci-tech innovation and financial services.

The overall momentum of the French economy has been sound over the past year, Macron hopes to press on by tackling some persistent challenges by balancing foreign trade with domestic reform, according to Cui.

Meanwhile, France can serve as a gateway to the European market for China. For the first time in history, China's Ministry of Finance issued and listed euro-denominated sovereign bonds worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) in France on November 6. This is "an important move to support Paris in becoming an international financial center and deepening China-France and China-Europe financial cooperation," Xi said during talks with Macron.

The issuance not only shows the importance China has attached to the European financial market, but also helps further boost economic and financial cooperation between China and France, as well as build a more solid, stable and vibrant comprehensive strategic partnership, Cui said.

It also showcases China's high-level and all-around opening up to the international market and bears far-reaching significance for China's deeper integration into the international financial market, according to Zhang Yuyan, a researcher on world economy with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Sino-European ties

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the China-France relationship has played a leading role in relations between China and Europe. For example, along with French officials and business people, Macron's delegation consisted of the new European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, German Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek, as well as several German business leaders.

As the UK continues to be embroiled in the Brexit process and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is at the end of her tenure, France is, to some extent, playing a leading role in the EU. Thus, China is committed to promoting overall cooperation with the bloc through bilateral cooperation with key countries, Cui said.

On the first day of Macron's trip, an agreement between China and the EU on geographical indications (GI) was signed, which will go into effect by the end of 2020. "It is a win for both parties, strengthening trade relations, benefitting agricultural and food sectors, and consumers on both sides," Hogan said.

The agreement will protect 100 European GI in China and 100 Chinese GI in the EU against imitation and usurpation. GI is a label used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation particular to that origin. GI is considered an intellectual property right (IPR).

The EU list of GI to be protected in China includes products such as cava, champagne, feta cheese, Irish whiskey and queso manchego. Among the protected Chinese products, there are Pixian dou ban (chili bean paste), Anji bai cha (white tea), Panjin da mi (rice) and Anqiu da jiang (ginger).

"The agreement demonstrates the Chinese Government's determination to deepen reform and opening up and protect IPR," said Geng Shuang, spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Upholding multilateralism

"We need to work together to safeguard the international order underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, uphold the core values and basic principles of the multilateral trading system, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all," Xi said in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Second CIIE.

He was echoed by Macron, who warned that resorting to unilateralism, protectionism, tariffs or the law of the jungle will not resolve the problems the world is currently facing.

China and France have maintained an open attitude and deepened bilateral and multilateral cooperation. They have shown a strong determination and a firm commitment to multilateralism, free trade and an open world, Fan Zhengjie, an associate researcher with CIIS, said.

At a time when free trade and globalization are facing severe challenges, the increased cooperation between China and France clearly shows to the international community that countries can work together in a spirit of mutual benefits despite differences in ideology and values, according to He Weiwen, a senior researcher with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Climate change was also a major focus of Macron's China trip. On November 6, the U.S. formally submitted its papers to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. In contrast to this stark unilateralist act, on the same day, China and France released the Beijing Call for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change, a joint proposal demonstrating their firm support for the landmark Paris Agreement aimed at fighting climate change.

"We will adhere to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and encourage more countries to cooperate in combating climate change with the full and thorough implementation of the Paris Agreement," Xi said.

"China has been internationally recognized for its development of green technology in recent years," Fan said.

According to a study published by Chinese and U.S. researchers in August, the carbon emissions in China should peak between 2021 and 2025, about five to 10 years ahead of the Paris target.

Among the National Determined Contribution that China proposed to achieve by 2030 as part of its Paris Agreement pledge, the country has committed to reducing its carbon intensity 60 to 65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, peaking its carbon emissions by 2030, increasing non-fossil-fuel energy to 20 percent of its energy mix and expanding forested land.

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

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