Innovation key for China and France, says Li

Updated: 2013-04-27 00:54

By DING QINGFEN and LI JIABAO in Beijing and XIE YU in Shanghai (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Premier Li Keqiang on Friday described China and France as two economies highly complementary to each other, in a meeting with visiting French President Francois Hollande in Beijing.

The two countries should seek innovative ways to boost their mutually beneficial cooperation, the premier said after the two governments signed 18 new agreements and business deals on Thursday.

Hollande said France is willing to deepen bilateral relations and explore new areas for economic cooperation with China, and oppose trade protectionism.

Li also urged the two sides to fight various forms of protectionism and expand trade and investment cooperation to create an equal and amicable environment for two-way cooperation and for possibly a joint effort to tap other foreign markets.

Hollande started his two-day visit to China on Thursday, his first trip to the country since becoming president in May 2012.

His visit comes as France is experiencing its most severe economic contraction since 2009 and with the president troubled by a record-low approval rating at home.

But Li said China and France share huge potential for advancing their bilateral relationship, and they should turn the potential into pragmatic achievements. The key for doing so is to adopt a win-win approach and to build cooperative ties in innovative ways.

China is willing to see a united, prosperous and stable Europe, and the nation will continue to support the continent to cope with sovereign debt problems, he added.

Li's remarks echoed those of President Xi Jinping on Thursday. During a keynote speech at the closing ceremony of the China-France Commercial Forum, Xi suggested China and France explore new areas and new ways of economic cooperation, building up a close, long-term and sustainable new type of economic and trade partnership.

They should develop in sectors including energy-saving and environmental protection, agricultural trade, and medical healthcare, in addition to traditional areas of cooperation such as aviation, nuclear energy and auto manufacturing, Xi said.

The 18 deals the two countries signed on Thursday include China's purchase of 60 Airbus planes and agreements on tourism, agricultural products, nuclear power and urbanization.

France is China's fourth-largest trade partner in the EU, while China is France's largest trade partner in Asia.

According to the General Administration of Customs, in 2012, China-France trade fell by 2 percent year-on-year to $51.02 billion and Chinese exports to France slumped 10.3 percent to $26.9 billion, while its imports from France rose 9.3 percent to $24.12 billion.

In 2012, France was the largest destination in Europe for China's outbound investment, and China became the eighth-largest investor in France, according to the Invest-in-France Agency.

Hollande is accompanied by a delegation consisting of about 100 members, including a large number of corporate executives.

Sang Baichuan, director of the Institute of International Business at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said, "While the domestic unemployment rate remains high, France must accelerate establishing closer cooperative relations with China to expand exports to China and to create more jobs."

Wang Zaibang, vice-president of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, agreed. "Such a big tour by Hollande while the European debt crisis is ongoing shows he attaches great importance to bilateral ties, and also his confidence in the Chinese economy."

The French economy slid into recession in 2012 and further contracted in the fourth quarter. The country's GDP will grow 0.1 percent in 2013 and 1.2 percent in 2014, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said earlier this month.

Xi said in a speech at the opening of the Boao Forum For Asia Annual Conference this month China can maintain healthy economic growth momentum with domestic consumption increasingly expanding, despite its economic slowdown.

Xi also said that in the next five years China will import commodities worth $10 trillion and the scale of its outbound direct investment in the next five years is expected to reach as high as $500 billion.

Wang said it is necessary for the two sides to seek innovative ways to strengthen economic cooperation, as the two countries' industries are at different levels and are strongly complementary.

According to Sang, France and other European countries should expand exports and transfer of high-tech goods to China, to help these countries to add jobs and to help China upgrade its industrial structure.

French statistics show China has run a trade deficit of $34 billion with France, with the deficit reportedly causing unease in Paris.

Developed nations, led by European countries and the United States, have placed restrictive measures on their exports of high-tech goods, partly a reason for China's foreign trade surplus.

Launch ceremony

Hollande said France will try every method to simplify the visa process, to attract more Chinese students to study in the country.

He made the pledge in Shanghai on Friday when he delivered a speech at the launch ceremony for an education program jointly set up by ParisTech — a collegiate university based in Paris specializing in science and business — and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

"China and France enjoy long-lasting friendship, and maintaining good friendship requires cooperation not only in politics but also in many other aspects including economy and science," he said.

France is willing to accompany China via its development, and is willing to cooperate with China in fields including science and technology, training and university education, Holland said.

"Currently, there are about 35,000 Chinese students studying in France ... and about 30,000 French youngsters are studying Chinese language in school. I see we have the ability to effectively further enhance mutual understanding," he said.