Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Macron prioritises trade and Ukraine talks as China’s Xi Jinping visits France

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China’s President Xi Jinping kicked off a two-day state visit at the French presidential palace on Monday (May 6), with discussions expected to centre on trade disputes and diplomatic initiatives to persuade Beijing to exert its influence to encourage Russia to end the conflict in Ukraine.

In Paris, Xi initially participated in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, focussing on broader EU interests. Macron stated at the outset of the meeting that discussions would prioritise trade matters, aiming to guarantee “fair competition,” before addressing the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.

“We are at a turning point in our history” as the Europe-China relationship is faced with challenges, Macron said.

The talks are aimed at sharing “both our shared positions and our concerns, to try to overcome them, because the future of our continent will very clearly also depend on our ability to develop balanced relations with China,” he said.

Macron, who strongly supports Europe’s economic independence, wants to talk about French worries about China’s investigation into whether to impose extra charges on cognac and other European brandy. He also wants to discuss tensions about French cosmetics and other industries. In a recent speech, he criticised both China and the United States for their trade practices, saying they both support protecting their own businesses and giving them subsidies.

At the start of the meeting in Paris, Xi said “the world today has entered a new period of turbulence and change.”

“As two important forces in the world, China and Europe should … continuously make new contributions to world peace and development,” he said.

Also watch | China’s Xi Jinping in France: Ukraine, trade and investment top agenda

Xi is starting his trip in Paris, trying to fix relationships during a tense time worldwide. After France, he’s going to Serbia and Hungary. France wants Xi to talk to Russia about ending the war in Ukraine. Russia’s president plans to visit China soon.

Macron will ask Xi about Chinese companies helping Russia in the war, even though the EU said no. China says it’s not taking sides in the Ukraine war, but France wants China to keep talking to Ukraine.

Last year, Macron asked Xi to talk to Russia, but nothing happened.

With France gearing up to host the Summer Olympics, Macron expressed his intention to urge Xi to leverage his influence to ensure that the Games become “a diplomatic moment of peace.”

These discussions will be closely monitored from Washington, particularly as they precede President Joe Biden’s anticipated state visit to France next month.

Xi’s visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of France-China diplomatic relations, following Macron’s journey to China in April 2023. Macron stirred controversy during that trip by stating that France would not blindly align with the US in crises unrelated to its interests, seemingly alluding to China’s aspirations for Taiwan’s reunification.

(With inputs from agencies)

Sneha Swaminathan

Sneha takes interest in everything that has political ramifications. Big time foodie and a tribal art fanatic. She graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi Uni

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