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France goes back on China's shopping list
By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-29 08:49

After skipping over France twice this year on purchasing delegations, China will shop in the Western European nation late next month, a move that analysts said signals a return to their economic relationship.

The delegation will arrive in France on Nov 26, nine months after China passed France over on its first business delegation of Europe this year.

At the time, the relationship between the two nations had bottomed out due to French leader Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama in December 2008.

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More than 100 Chinese companies, both State-owned and private, have applied to join the tour from a wide range of sectors, such as aerospace, energy, railway, nuclear power and environmental protection, said Gao Hucheng, vice-minister of commerce.

"The preparation for the tour has been well underway," Gao said yesterday during his Beijing meeting with Christine Lagarde, French minister of the economy, industry and employment.

"This business delegation will help promote China-French relations," Gao said.

The first cancelled visit to France happened in late February, when the nation sent a business delegation to Switzerland, Germany, Spain and the UK, where Chinese companies spent $13 billion.

China's second business delegation to Europe in July also skipped France. Chinese companies shopped in countries including Italy, Sweden and Finland.

Relations between the two nations began to recover in April after they agreed to a joint statement during the G20 summit in London, in which France stated that "Tibet is an integral part of Chinese territory".

The size of next month's delegation is unknown with more Chinese companies applying to join the delegation, said Ling Ji, deputy director of the Department of European Affairs with the Ministry of Commerce. Ling also refused to reveal how much the delegation plans to spend.

Lagarde said France welcomes the Chinese purchasers, as the nation is mired in a high unemployment rate.

In September, more than 2.57 million French lost their jobs, up 25 percent from the previous year, said the French Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment.

France is China's fourth largest trading partner in Europe. Amid the financial crisis, trade between the two nations fell by 16 percent to $15.33 billion in the first half, the first drop since 1996.