France prioritizes trade and Ukraine as President Xi Jinping of China visits on a state visit

China’s President Xi Jinping has made his way to the French presidential palace for a significant two-day state visit. This visit is anticipated to address various matters, including trade disputes and diplomatic endeavors aimed at persuading Beijing to leverage its influence in order to encourage Russia to bring an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

During his visit to Paris, Xi initially participated in a meeting alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The objective of the meeting was to discuss various concerns related to the European Union. In his opening statement, Macron emphasized that the meeting would primarily focus on trade matters and the importance of ensuring fair competition. Additionally, the discussions would also cover the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.

According to Macron, the Europe-China relationship is currently at a crucial juncture, facing a series of challenges that will shape its future.

According to the speaker, the purpose of the talks is to exchange viewpoints and address concerns in order to find common ground. The speaker emphasizes the importance of fostering a balanced relationship with China, as it will have a significant impact on the future of our continent.

Macron is a staunch supporter of Europe’s economic sovereignty and is determined to voice French concerns regarding a Chinese antidumping investigation into cognac and other European brandy. Additionally, he aims to address the growing tensions surrounding French cosmetics and other sectors.

During a recent speech, he criticized the trade practices of both China and the United States for supporting protections and subsidies.

Xi kicked off the meeting in Paris by acknowledging that “the world today is experiencing a new era of turbulence and change.”

He expressed that China and Europe, as significant global powers, should continually contribute to world peace and development.

The European Union initiated an investigation last autumn regarding Chinese subsidies and has the authority to impose tariffs on electric vehicles that are exported from China.

“The European Union and China both prioritize maintaining strong relations,” stated von der Leyen. “We have a significant economic partnership between the EU and China. However, this partnership faces various challenges, such as state-supported overcapacity, unequal market access, and overdependencies.”

Xi’s European trip starts in Paris, as he aims to mend relations amidst global tensions. Following his visit to France on Monday and Tuesday, he will continue his journey to Serbia and Hungary.

France is hopeful that the discussions will be able to persuade China to utilize its influence with Moscow in order to contribute towards resolving the conflict in Ukraine. A French presidential official expressed this sentiment, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to visit China in the coming month.

During their meeting, President Macron plans to address the issue of Chinese companies supporting Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine, despite EU sanctions. It is expected that Macron will raise concerns about the neutrality claimed by China in the conflict. Additionally, France is keen on urging China to maintain a dialogue with Kyiv.

Macron made an appeal to Xi last year, urging him to “bring Russia to its senses.” However, it seems that Beijing did not take any action in response to this call.

According to Marc Julienne, director of the Center for Asian Studies at the French Institute of International Relations, the French authorities are faced with a conflicting situation. On one hand, they want to convince President Xi that it would be beneficial for him to assist Europeans in pressuring Vladimir Putin to end the war. On the other hand, they also want to discourage President Xi from providing weapons to his Russian ally.

Julienne expressed her belief that Xi can be of assistance to them, while also acknowledging their fear that he may also assist Putin.

French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed his intention to request Chinese President Xi Jinping to utilize his influence in order to transform the upcoming Summer Olympics into a significant diplomatic event promoting peace.

The discussions will also draw close attention from Washington as President Joe Biden’s own state visit to France is just a month away.

Xi’s visit commemorates the 60th anniversary of France-China diplomatic relations, which comes after Macron’s visit to China in April 2023. During Macron’s visit, he sparked controversy by stating that France would not unquestioningly align itself with the U.S. in matters that do not directly affect it, possibly alluding to China’s aspirations for reunification with Taiwan.

As President Xi arrived in Paris, various organizations, including the International Campaign for Tibet and France’s Human Rights League, emphasized the importance of addressing human rights concerns in his discussions with Macron. Demonstrators took to the streets of Paris, advocating for a free Tibet.

Amnesty International has urged Macron to take a stand and demand the release of Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economics professor who has been imprisoned in China since 2014. Tohti was sentenced to life in prison on charges of promoting separatism, along with other activists who are also currently detained.

On Monday morning, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders held a protest in front of the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument to condemn Xi’s visit, labeling the Chinese president as “one of the most significant threats to press freedom.” According to the organization, there are currently 119 journalists imprisoned in China.

In a recent interview published on Sunday, Macron expressed his intention to address concerns regarding human rights.

Later on Monday, there will be a formal ceremony held at the Invalides monument, followed by bilateral talks at the Elysee presidential palace. Macron and Xi will then attend a French-Chinese economic forum nearby before joining their wives for a state dinner.

On the second day of the visit, the focus shifts towards creating a more personal experience.

Macron has extended an invitation to Xi to visit the Tourmalet Pass in the Pyrenees mountains on Tuesday. This special request holds sentimental value for the French leader, as it was a place where he spent his childhood and had fond memories with his grandmother. The purpose of this visit is to reciprocate the gesture made by Xi last year when he took Macron to the residence of the governor of Guangdong province, a location of significance as it was once home to Xi’s father.

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MBS Staff
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