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BUSINESS

France and China to get down to business

China and France will do business on Wednesday on the first full day of President Xi Jinping's state visit. Scores of deals are set to be signed off between the two nations, many of which have remained closely guarded by both sides.

France and China to get down to business
China's President Xi Jinping (C) arrives flanked by French Foreign Affairs minister Laurent Fabius (R) at the Lyon Saint-Exupery Airport on March 25. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

China and France are expected to sign scores of business deals on the first full day of President Xi Jinping's state visit on Wednesday after he was wined and dined in the gastronomic capital of Lyon.

France lags behind some European neighbours, most markedly Germany, in trade and investment links with China but has worked hard to catch up and accords in the aviation, nuclear, space, agriculture and urban development sectors are expected to be unveiled.

Details have been closely guarded by both sides. The only deal certain to be signed is one that will see Chinese firm Dongfeng take a stake in troubled French auto giant Peugeot.

An agreement on the joint construction of civilian helicopters between Airbus Helicopters and China is also expected.

When French President Francois Hollande visited China in April last year, Xi welcomed him with a pledge to buy 60 Airbus planes and there could be more to come.

"My visit to France… will allow me to work with President Francois Hollande… to sum up 50 years of Sino-French relations and to plan the future together," Xi said Tuesday at a dinner in the centre-west city of Lyon, his first stop.

"Investments are welcome in France and we are mobilised to facilitate them," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Xi.

Hollande will welcome Xi and his glamorous wife Peng Liyuan to the presidential palace, where the two countries will sign the Dongfeng-Peugeot deal

The couple's three-day visit will culminate in a concert at the Versailles palace, as the two countries celebrate 50 years of full diplomatic ties.

Ahead of his trip, Xi penned a column in French daily Le Figaro in which he paid tribute to French leader Charles de Gaulle's 1964 decision to break ranks with the United States and recognise communist China, paving the way for Beijing's global acceptance.

Areva wants nuclear deals 

Luc Oursel, head of French nuclear giant Areva, last week said he was hoping that several agreements would be signed, as negotiations continue on the construction in China of a nuclear waste reprocessing plant.

France's finance ministry is also organising an economic forum on Thursday that will gather together about 400 businesses

"Our economic and trade relationship with China is marked by a strong imbalance," the French foreign ministry said, pointing to a trade deficit of €25.8 billion ($35.7 billion) last year between the two countries.

At the end of 2012, France's total investments in China came to 16.7 billion euros, four times more than China's in France.

The trip is also due to touch on political matters as the crisis in Ukraine dominates the international agenda.

Tibet protest planned 

The trip also carries a symbolic note, with Xi scheduled to make a major speech in Paris highlighting historical bonds such as the experiences of Communist Party luminaries Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, who both studied in France.

Xi's wife Peng, a famous singer and China's first prominent First Lady, is also a Francophile.

And while she no longer has a French counterpart after Hollande split from his partner Valerie Trierweiler, Peng has her own itinerary planned that will see her named special UNESCO envoy for the promotion of women's education.

The question of human rights in China will impact on the visit amid an ongoing, government-backed crackdown on dissent, with Tibetan exiles planning a big rally in Paris on Thursday.

Since 2009 about 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China in protests against the authorities, denouncing what they say is an erosion of their religious freedoms and culture and discrimination by the country's Han majority.

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BUSINESS

French court hands Amazon €90,000-per-day fine over contracts

French authorities on Wednesday slapped a €90,000-per-day fine on e-commerce giant Amazon until it removes abusive clauses in its contracts with businesses using its platform to sell their goods.

French court hands Amazon €90,000-per-day fine over contracts

The anti-fraud Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) service said the online sales giant’s contracts with third-party sellers who use its Amazon.fr website contain “unbalanced” clauses.

“The company Amazon Services Europe did not comply completely with an injunction it was served and it is now subject to a fine of €90,000 per day of delay” in applying the changes, the DGCCRF said in a statement.

It also urged the platform to conform with European rules on equity and transparency for firms using online platforms.

Amazon said the order would harm consumers.

“The changes imposed by the DGCCRF will stop us from effectively protecting consumers and permit bad actors to set excessive prices or spam our clients with commercial offers,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement.

“We will comply with the DGCCRF’s decision but we absolutely do not understand it and we are challenging it in court,” responded the e-commerce giant in a statement.

Amazon said the clauses that the DGCCRF has ordered removed had, for example “prevented the appearance of exorbitant prices for mask and hydroalcoholic gel during the pandemic”.

In 2019, Amazon was fined €4 million for “manifestly unbalanced” contract clauses with third-party sellers on its site in a case brought by the DGCCRF.

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