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Promoting trade with China is priority: France FM

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-05-06 20:03

HONG KONG - Promoting trade and cross-border investments with China is a priority, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius said in Hong Kong on Monday, adding that the foundation of the two country's relationship is a "long-term strategic vision".

Addressing a luncheon during his two-day visit starting on Sunday, Fabius said France and China define each other as "global strategic partners". "My visit is a testimony of strong will of French authorities to work with China, a commitment shared by the Chinese government," he said.

To strive economic relationship between the two nations, one thing is to rebalance the bilateral trade, Fabius said, adding that although France's trade deficit with China decreased by 1.5 billion euros (about $2.0 billion) in 2012, it is still "very large" at about 26 billion euros, which is about 40 percent of France's overall trade deficit.

Leaders of the two countries have agreed to work together to rebalance the "unsustainable" situation, and the rebalancing has to be in the framework of an expanding bilateral trade as both France and China agree that protectionism would be "disastrous", he said.

To increase the cross-border investments is another topic to work on, Fabius said. France is the second largest European investor in China with more than 2,000 companies present in China, while several hundred Chinese companies have invested in France so far.

However, the stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to France from China amounts to only 3.4 billion euros, less than one third of the stock of French FDI in China, he said. "This figure clearly falls short of the potential. We need to do better. "

Fabius said some specific measures have been decided in France and will be soon elaborated to attract investments from China, in a way to "lift all obstacles to Chinese investments in France" such as visa procedures, work permits and other issues.

"We are willing to take all necessary steps to facilitate Chinese businessmen to think of France as their second home."

France also wants to cooperate with China on new fields, in support of the new priorities set by the Chinese government, with growing focus on education, technology upgrading and consumer spending to achieve a more qualitative and balanced development, Fabius said.

French companies are willing to seize the opportunities from China's shift, he said, adding that the two countries already have strong partnerships in the fields of aerospace and nuclear power, and now are seeking new cooperation in sustainable urban development, the environment, food and beverages, health, and the digital industry.

Speaking of renminbi, Fabius said the currency is bound to play a greater role as China is becoming an economic giant. France welcomes the increasing flexibility of the renminbi exchange rate as it will contribute to the reduction of global macroeconomic imbalances; France also supports the internationalization of renminbi.

According to data, France ranks first in offshore renminbi transactions in the eurozone, with roughly 10 percent of Chinese- French trade settled in renminbi at present.

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