Macron puts trade and Ukraine as top priorities as China’s Xi visits France

French President Emmanuel Macron has held talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping that focused on trade disputes and Ukraine-related diplomatic efforts.

Mr Xi was in France for a two-day state visit to open his European tour.

Speaking after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Mr Macron said France hopes China’s influence on Moscow would help to move Russia towards ending the war in Ukraine.

“We welcome the Chinese authorities’ commitments to refrain from selling any weapons or aid” and to “strictly control” sales of products and technologies that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, Mr Macron said.

“History has repeatedly proven that any conflict can ultimately be resolved only through negotiation,” Mr Xi said. “We call on all parties to restart contact and dialogue.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced plans to visit China this month.

Last year, Mr Macron appealed to Mr Xi to “bring Russia to its senses”, but the call was not followed by any apparent action by Beijing.

Both leaders also expressed their concerns about the situation in the Middle East, where Mr Macron said France and China share the “same goals” – “to achieve an immediate ceasefire to release hostages, protect the populations, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, encourage a regional de-escalation and reopen a political perspective”.

Mr Xi called the Israel-Hamas war a “tragedy” and “a test of human conscience”.

“The international community must do something. We call for an immediate, comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza,” he said.

France China
Xi Jinping speaks during a toast at a state dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris (Ludovic Marin/AP)

Mr Macron advocates for making the Paris Games “a diplomatic moment of peace”.

Trade issues also were at the top of the agenda as he denounced the trade practices of China as shoring up protections and subsidies.

He thanked Mr Xi for his “openness about the provisional measures toward French cognac”, after China opened an anti-dumping investigation into cognac and other European brandy earlier this year.

A senior French diplomat said Mr Xi had agreed not to apply tariffs in the short-term pending further investigation.

French gifts to the Chinese president on Monday included luxury bottles of cognac.

Earlier, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen joined both leaders for a meeting to address broader European Union concerns.

The EU launched an investigation last year into Chinese subsidies and could impose tariffs on electric vehicles exported from China. The 27-member bloc last month opened another inquiry into Chinese wind turbine makers.

“For trade to be fair, access to both markets needs to be reciprocal,” Ms von der Leyen said after the meeting. “Our market is and remains open to fair competition and to investments, but it is not good for Europe if it harms our security and makes us vulnerable.”

She said Europe “will not waver from making tough decisions needed to protect its economy and its security”.

Mr Xi’s European trip, the first in five years, seeks to rebuild relations at a time of global tensions. After France, he will head to Serbia and Hungary.

His visit marks the 60th anniversary of France-China diplomatic relations, and follows Mr Macron’s trip to China in April 2023.

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