Macron plays ‘European’ card on state visit to China

“The more we act Franco-German and especially European, the more credibility and results we have," said French President Emmanuel Macron, before landing in Shanghai.

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Shanghai on Monday (4 November), accompanied by a European Commissioner and a German minister. Europeans finally feel they have a card to play against China, while Washington remains opposed to Beijing. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France reports.

Macron has promised to visit China every year. On Monday, he visited the country for the second time, following his first visit in January 2018. With a constant concern of having to play ‘European’, he was not only accompanied by the usual French business leaders (Orano, Sanofi, Safran, Schneider, Airbus, Bigard, Limagrain…), but also by two Europeans, who did not impose themselves in a bilateral relationship.

Macron, Merkel and Juncker to meet China’s Xi on Tuesday

French President Emmanuel Macron invited German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to join a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next Tuesday (26 March), in a bid to forge a united front in European efforts to rebalance relations with Beijing.

European Commissioner Phil Hogan, who is in charge of the agriculture portfolio in the outgoing Commission and should take on the trade portfolio in Ursula von der Leyen’s team, joined the French president. And so did Germany’s Education and Research Minister Anna Karliczek.

“The more you play as Europeans, the more you get results” 

Chinese President Xi Jinping will have to get used to this. Last year, at the Elysée, he was received by Macron, who was accompanied by Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker.

Europeans want to show that they are playing together against their second trading partner. In 2020, the German EU presidency will organise an EU27 Summit, and China will be present too.

It is a question of having a say in the definition of trade rules. “The more we act Franco-German and especially European, the more credibility and results we have,” Macron said before landing in Shanghai. For France, the stakes are high since it imports €50 billion worth of goods from China, while it only exports €21 billion.

An agreement on protected geographical indications is expected to be signed on Wednesday (6 November).

Member states support tougher stance toward China despite warnings

EU’s foreign affairs ministers expressed their “full support”on Monday (18 March) to the EU’s new stance toward China, described as “systemic rival”, as the bloc seeks to rebalance its economic and trade relationship with Beijing.

Asking Beijing to open its market as much as possible

The infrastructure projects of the Silk Roads are in the minds of many. “Roads are shared and cannot be unambiguous,” Macron warned during his previous visit in January 2018.

It is a question of asking Beijing for a minimum of market opening at a time when China invests massively in Europe. And Europeans finally feel that they have a card to play against China, while Washington remains opposed to Beijing.

Without China, “the Paris Agreement (on climate change) would not have survived”, the French President recalled during his trip in 2018.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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