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China and France sign Airbus, other deals totalling US$4 b
Updated: 2005-04-21 23:53

France and China signed 20 agreements and contracts with a total value of 3 billion euros (US$4 billion) in Beijing yesterday.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (L) shake hands after a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing April 21, 2005. [Reuters]
Contracts ranged from the purchase of Airbus jumbos to enhanced nuclear co-operation, the latest sign of increased friendship between the two countries.

Premier Wen Jiabao and French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin watched the signing of agreements after their talks, during which Raffarin reaffirmed France's opposition to the European Union's 16-year ban on arms sales to China.

Three Chinese airlines signed contracts for the purchase of 30 Airbus aircraft: China Southern Airlines signed with Airbus for five A380s, China Eastern Airlines for five A319s, 11 A321s and four A320s and Shenzhen Airlines signed with China Aviation Supplies Import & Export Group Corporation (CASGC) and Airbus for three A320s and two A319s.

Airbus and China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I) also agreed to enter into the third phase of the A320 Family Wing Co-operation Programme, which comprises the production of wing boxes. "This represents significant progress in Airbus' technology transfer to China," said an Airbus spokesman.

Also yesterday, Airbus and the China Aviation Industry Corporation II (AVIC II) agreed to set up an engineering centre in the form of a joint venture in Beijing. The facility will perform aircraft specific design work for the A350 programme.

To further bilateral partnership in the nuclear sector, the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and the Electrical Company of France signed a long-term co-operation agreement.

"This is a framework agreement that will allow the French side to provide personnel and technical support to Chinese nuclear plants," said Qiao Junping, the Beijing representative of the Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, in an interview with China Daily.

So far, two nuclear plants -- Dayawan and Ling'ao, both in Guangdong, -- are equipped with French nuclear technology.

France and China also set up joint ventures between French auto parts firm Valeo and China's First Auto Works.

On the lifting of Europe's arms embargo on China, Raffarin said that "there is no reason for the European Council to change its decision to lift the arms embargo."

"The stance of France (on this matter) is clear," he said at a joint press conference with Wen.

Wen said the embargo is "political discrimination" and expressed gratitude for France's understanding and support on the matter.

Turning to the Anti-Secession Law, which was passed by China's National People's Congress in March, Raffarin said the law was "totally compatible" with the French position on the question of Taiwan.

He said France supports the one-China principle and appreciates the Chinese Government's efforts to alleviate tension across the Taiwan Straits.

When talking about China's relations with the Vatican, Wen said China is willing to build relations with the Vatican only if the newly elected Pope severs "diplomatic" ties with Taiwan and pledges not to interfere in China's internal affairs.

Accompanied by 30 French business leaders, Raffarin arrived in Beijing yesterday to start his three-day official visit.

Besides Wen, he also met Vice-President Zeng Qinghong yesterday.

Raffarin's visit follows a trip to China in October by President Jacques Chirac.

Besides Beijing, Raffarin will also visit Shenyang in Northeast China's Liaoning Province and Shanghai, the country's business hub.

Raffarin also toured the Forbidden City yesterday afternoon and showed great interest in the architecture of the imperial palace, according to Zhang Guangyao, from the Palace Museum, who accompanied Raffarin on his visit.

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