Macron vs Trump: French President plots to beat US in trade relations with China

The French President will arrive in Shanghai this morning to show a “united European front in the dialogue with China”. Ahead of the trip, the Elysee tweeted: “This united voice of the EU is essential in the relationship.” But the trip could also be an opportunity for Mr Macron to push for more market access, despite China not opening itself up to trade.

A French presidential advisor said before the trip: “Since this fair is supposed to demonstrate China’s openness, well, let’s prove it with access to its agrobusiness market and progress on the EU-China deals.”

Mr Macron will head straight to a gala dinner hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping this afternoon.

After dinner, he will meet with new European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan, German Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek, who is representing German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He will also meet a group of French and German business leaders.

Around 13 German businesses will be represented, including BMW, Henkel, Merck, Siemens, Lufthansa and Volkswagen. On the French side, some of the higher-profile participants include BNP Paribas, Suez, L’Oreal and LVMH.

Mr Macron is said to be seeking greater access in the fields of finance and aerospace, as well as fewer export restrictions for French poultry.

China has previously been accused by the West of “unfair trade practices”.

These practices ranged from forced tech transfers to protectionist market entry policy.

But this has also led to the US slapping tariffs on Chinese exports.

The French adviser said Washington was right to push for better behaviour from China.

The is despite France not wholly supporting President Donald Trump’s trade moves.

He said: “The United States ask the right questions, but don’t necessarily have the right answers.”

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His words come after the US and China both said on Friday that they had made progress in talks to defuse their 16-month-long trade war.

US officials even said a deal could be signed this month.

Mr Macron will be visiting China for the second time since he took office.

During his last trip last year, he said Beijing’s flagship “Belt and Road” project to develop global trade infrastructure should not be “one-way”.

The French President has also been keen for EU countries to show a united political front
towards Beijing.

When President Xi Jinping came to Paris in March, Mr Macron invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to the Elysee palace.

However, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China in September, she didn’t include the Commission or a French Cabinet member.

Germany’s exports to China account for nearly half the EU total and more than four times as much as those of France.

The French advisor added that demonstrating EU unity is important,

He said: “We know how Europeans have moved to China without any co-ordination in the past, letting China think we were divided.”

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