Macron Demands ‘Reciprocity’ from Xi on China’s Belt and Road Initiative
France’s leader is seeking to make the BRI a two-way street.
French President Emmanuel Macron has welcomed his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in France with demands for “reciprocity” and “balanced and fair trade” in light of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Italy’s surprising decision to join it.
Macron hosted Xi for a three-day state visit while also urging the European Union member states to present a united front when it comes to tackling China’s global ambitions.
Before going to France, Xi was in its neighbor Italy causing an uproar in the West as Italy became the first G-7, EU heavyweight, and major Western power to join his Belt and Road Initiative.
France as well as Germany, the EU institutions in Brussels, and the United States have had concerns over Chinese infrastructure investments and their consequences in terms of political influence, control of transport hubs, and access to sensitive technology.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the signature foreign policy project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, has now been joined by 14 EU member states, mostly from Eastern and Southern Europe.
Following talks with Xi at the Elysee Palace on Monday, France’s President declared his wish for a “strong Europe-China partnership”, as cited by France24.
However, he warned that could only be based on “strong multilateralism” and “fair and balanced” trade.
At the initiative of Franco-Germany, the European Union is considering adopt a more defensive approach towards China because of Chinese takeovers in crucial industries and Beijing’s unwillingness to open up its economy.
Macron even issued a stern warning on China during the European Council summit in Brussels at the end of last week, stating that “time of European naïveté” regarding China was over.
“For many years we had an uncoordinated approach and China took advantage of our divisions… Europe needs a clear, unitary view on China,” France’s leader urged.
After the Chinese takeover of factory robot producer Kuka, Germany reduce to 10% (down from 25%) the threshold above which it could ban a foreign investor from buying more shares, while the European Parliament approved new powers to monitor foreign takeovers in Europe’s strategic setors.
In the wake of the decision of Italy’s populist Cabinet to join China’s BRI, the EU Budget Commissioner Gunther Oettinger even proposed a veto power for the Union on Chinese infrastructure investments in EU member states.
“A united and prosperous Europe fits in with our vision of a multipolar world,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in turn at his talks with Macron.
In a column in French daily Le Figaro, published on Sunday, Xi made wrote he wanted France to take part in the BRI project, urging increased trade and investments in various sectors.
“French investors are welcome to share development opportunities in China. I also hope that Chinese companies can do better in France and make a greater contribution to its economic and social development,” he wrote.
His op-ed compared ties between China and France “a myriad of small streams converging into a mighty river”.
Before their talks at the Elysee Palace, Macron and Xi attended the signing ceremony for a number of bilateral deals, including a large-scale purchase contract of European aircraft producer Airbus with the China Aviation Supplies Holding Company for a total of 300 plans worth some EUR 30 billion.
(Banner image: Emmanuel Macron on Twitter)