Macron's agenda: Trade and Ukraine take center stage during china's Xi visit to France

Leader of China Xi Jinping and President of France Emmanuel Macron discussed trade issues and diplomatic initiatives concerning Ukraine. To begin his European journey, Mr. Xi made a two-day state visit to France. Following their meeting at Paris’ Elysee Palace, Mr. Macron stated that France believes China’s clout with Moscow would encourage Russia to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

Ukraine crisis

Macron praised the Chinese government’s pledges to “strictly control” the sale of goods and technology that may be applied to both military and civilian uses, as well as to “refrain from selling any weapons or aid.” China asserts its wartime neutrality. “History has consistently demonstrated that dialogue is the only way to finally resolve any conflict,” Xi stated. “All parties are urged to reestablish communication and discourse.” Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has declared his intention to travel to China this month. Macron urged Xi to “bring Russia to its senses” last year, but Beijing didn’t seem to take any notice of the request. Concerns about the Middle East situation were also voiced by both leaders, with Macron stating that France and China have “same goals,” which include “achieving an immediate cease-fire to release hostages, protect the populations, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, encourage a regional de escalation and reopen a political perspective.”

Bilateral talks with China

The Israel-Hamas conflict is a “tragedy” and “a test of human conscience,” according to Xi. The world community needs to take action. We want an immediate, all-encompassing, and long-lasting cease-fire in Gaza,” he stated. Furthermore, Xi stated that China is prepared to collaborate with France “to use the Paris Olympics as a platform to promote an international cease-fire and an end to hostilities during the Games.” Macron is in favor of honoring the Olympic Truce and turning the Paris Games into “a diplomatic moment of peace.” Additionally, trade concerns dominated the agenda, with Macron criticizing China’s trade policies for bolstering subsidies and protectionism. For his “openness about the provisional measures toward French Cognac,” Macron complimented Xi. 

The statement was made in response to China’s earlier this year anti-dumping probe into Cognac and other European brandies. Speaking under anonymity to discuss private discussions, a top French official said that Xi had agreed to postpone the imposition of tariffs until more inquiry is conducted. The Chinese president received expensive Cognac bottles as presents from France. In return, Xi released Chinese translations of Madame Bovary and other beloved French books.

Strategic partnerships

France wants to be allowed to keep selling its goods to China, particularly cosmetics and brandy. Prior to this, both leaders met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss issues of greater significance to the Union. The European Union (EU) opened an inquiry into Chinese subsidies last year and may apply tariffs to Chinese exports of electric vehicles. Last month, the 27-member EU launched a second investigation into Chinese manufacturers of wind turbines. “Access to both markets needs to be reciprocal for trade to be fair,” von der Leyen stated following the conference. “Investments and fair competition are welcome in our market, but it is not good for Europe if it undermines our security and leaves us exposed.” Europe “won’t waver from making tough decisions needed to protect its economy and its security,” the speaker declared. One month before U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to make his own official visit to France, the talks were anticipated to be keenly monitored from Washington.

European unity and cohesion

In the midst of tensions throughout the world, Xi is making his first trip to Europe in five years and is hoping to mend fences. He’s going to Serbia and Hungary after France. Following Macron’s visit to China in April 2023, Xi’s visit commemorates the diplomatic ties between France and China reaching their 60th anniversary. During that trip, Macron caused a stir when he said that France wouldn’t heedlessly follow the United States into situations that aren’t its business, seemingly alluding to China’s calls for Taiwan’s unification. The International Campaign for Tibet and the French Human Rights League were among the organizations that pushed Macron to prioritize human rights concerns in his discussions with Xi. Calling for a free Tibet, protests staged demonstrations in Paris on Sunday as Xi visited.

Public perception and domestic considerations

Amnesty International urged Macron to insist for the release of other detained activists, including Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison in China in 2014 after it was alleged that he had encouraged separatism.

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