In full commercial rivalry between Washington and Beijing, Emmanuel Macron began his second visit to China on Monday, calling on Europeans to speak and act together to better weigh up against the Chinese on economic issues.
“There are national agendas (…) but the more we play in Franco-German and especially in Europeans, the more we have credibility and results,” said the head of state a few hours after arriving in Shanghai.
He was speaking to French and German business leaders participating in the Shanghai Import Fair, an annual meeting for which France is the guest of honor this year.
Emmanuel Macron will go there Tuesday morning with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who offered a gala dinner on Monday evening to the leaders invited to this fair.
For this commercial meeting, the French President wanted to be accompanied by a German Minister, Anja Karliczek, in charge of Education and Research, and a European Commissioner, the Irish Phil Hogan, current holder of the Agriculture portfolio and which should take the Commerce portfolio in the next Commission.
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This is, according to Emmanuel Macron, to show that, “in an increasingly shaken international context”, a much more “European cooperation” is necessary to weigh effectively against the Chinese and American giants.
– Agreement on geographical origins –
For him, this strengthening is not only essential on the economic and technological levels – within particular the sensitive file of 5G – but also on the climate. Because “if we do not intensify our cooperation, we will not achieve results” after the departure of the United States from the climate agreement, according to him.
After a first mainly diplomatic trip in January 2018, this second visit to China has a strong commercial dimension with the expected signature of around 40 agreements between companies.
Emmanuel Macron also announced Monday that an agreement would be signed on Wednesday on protected geographical indications (PGI) which certify the origin of European products entering the Chinese market.
“Long overdue”, this agreement will represent “a very important step forward, which is the result of joint action” at the European level, said the French head of state.
“It makes it possible to favor trade and exchanges by protecting our brands, our know-how”, he added. And it shows that “we know how to construct, in a realistic way, a positive commercial agenda”, according to him.
This agreement concerns 100 European PGIs, including 26 from France, notably wines and cheeses (such as cognac, Beaujolais, Comte or Agen prunes), which will thus be able to benefit from protection when they enter the Chinese market.
For his part, the Chinese president is seeking to strengthen his contacts with Europeans at a time when his country’s economy is slowing, a setback worsened by the trade war with the United States.
– “without taboo” –
For the sinologist Jean-Pierre Cabestan, of the Baptist University of Hong Kong, there is no doubt that the American offensive pushes the Chinese to get closer to France and other countries. However, “”Europeans would be naive to believe that they can ally themselves with China against Trump,” he warns.
“China remains a problem for the WTO, a factor of destabilization in the South China Sea, a threat facing Taiwan and an authoritarian pole facing Hong Kong and our democratic values”, believes the author of “Tomorrow China, democracy or dictatorship? “
While the Elysee has assured that Emmanuel Macron would address “without taboo” these sensitive issues, Beijing has sent a warning to the French president.
“Hong Kong and Xinjiang are internal affairs of China, it is irrelevant that this is on the diplomatic agenda,” warned a senior official of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhu Jing. “If France seeks to” play a role of disturbance, this is not what we hope to see “, he added, about the French presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
For this sixth meeting in two years, Xi Jinping will pamper the Macron couple, especially during a private dinner with his wife, singer Peng Liyuan, Tuesday evening. The table will be set in the heart of old Shanghai, in the Yu garden, considered one of the most beautiful in China.
Previously, Emmanuel Macron was to inaugurate the new Center Georges Pompidou, intended to become one of the new cultural places of the giant metropolis of 24 million inhabitants.