Hollande visits China on sales mission

Hollande visits China on sales mission
French President François Hollande and his partner, French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler, are greeted in Beijing, China on April 25th. Mark Ralston/AFP
French President François Hollande arrived in Beijing early on Thursday morning, kicking off a two-day visit aimed at boosting exports to China, and in the hope that the two countries can reach deals on aircraft sales and nuclear power.

Hollande, who is the first Western leader to be received in the Chinese capital by new President Xi Jinping, is accompanied by a planeload of businessmen hoping to increase their share of the fruits of China's economic growth.

And it did not take him long to work his magic with AFP reporting that a no sooner had Hollande stepped off the plane that a deal was signed that will see China buy 60 French Airbus planes.

France accounts for just 1.3 percent of China's foreign trade compared with around 5 percent for Germany, and a trade deficit with China of €26 billion last year is seen in Paris as unsustainable.

But reversing this will not be easy for a country that lacks Germany's strength in the production of capital goods or export-driven business culture.

Aides to Hollande believe the Chinese yuan is seriously undervalued and expect the issue to be raised during his two-day visit, albeit without much hope of significant progress.

In industrial terms, France's highest-value cards are its share in the planemaker Airbus and its nuclear expertise, and officials anticipate Hollande's visit will bring progress on both fronts.

Hopes are high that French nuclear giant Areva and the Chinese energy group CNNC will sign letters of intent on the construction of a nuclear waste treatment facility, while Airbus is hoping to tie down some orders from Chinese airlines.

Carmaker Renault hopes to progress negotiations on a proposed factory at Wuhan that would produce 150,000 vehicles per year.

France is also pushing for greater access to the Chinese market for its charcuterie, or cooked pork meat, producers.

Hollande touched down down in Beijing around 9:50am (2:50am French time) on Thursday, an AFP photographer said.

The French president is expected to have three meetings with Xi, including a state banquet on Thursday and a more intimate lunch on Friday along with their respective partners, Valerie Trierweiler and Peng Liyuan.

For Hollande, beset by economic woes and the aftermath of a corruption scandal that forced his budget minister to resign, the trip is a break from domestic troubles.

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