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Macron in China

By Patrick Higgins  |  09/01/2018 16:13

Macron in China: Europe is strong and ready to do business

The French president seeks to promote EU agenda in the face of rising Chinese dominance.

French President Emmanuel Macron, continuing with his three-day state visit to China, has spoken out again today in favour of intensified economic Chinese investment. He made it clear, however, that any investment would need to entail more stringent screening to ensure that the European economies would equally benefit from any investment deals.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who accompanied the president to Beijing, echoed these sentiments, saying that France would reject any trade deal or investment that it deemed invasive or one-sided.

Part of Macron's overall strategy is to increase trade opportunities for French and European companies in China, a country notorious for imposing strict rules on external access and investment within its domestic markets. To further this aim, over 50 French businessmen travelled with Macron to China, seeking to promote the agenda of greater market access. Macron has pushed for more stringent European regulations against invasive foreign economic agendas, becoming a crucial advocate for the protection of European markets. Recently, he has highlighted the hypocrisy in the treatment of European firms in China by the Chinese government in comparison with the treatment of Chinese firms in the EU. Additionally, he has been especially vocal against Chinese steel dumping in Europe.

Macron, who has been active in advocating the economic rights of both France and the broader EU throughout his state visit, has spoken of the need for increased cooperation between Chinese and European economic interests. One particular instance he cited is that of the Chinese "Belt and Road" initiative, which is a plan to construct connecting infrastructure across Eurasia and Western Europe to increase intra-Eurasian trade. Macron cited this as a perfect example of Europe’s potential to economically interact with China on a level playing field. His mentioning of this Chinese venture is no coincidence. Since 2013, when the Belt and Road project was first announced, there have been high levels of suspicion amongst Western nations regarding the true intentions of the $124 billion Chinese project, especially in Europe. Many fear that this is part of China's push to assert its growing dominance and transform its hegemony from that of an economic nature towards a form of domination more similar to that of America, who relatedly is increasingly seeking to isolate itself from the world stage. Accordingly, Macron's recognition of this potential new reality was evident in his recent praise for Chinese commitment to the Paris Accords, which the US unilaterally pulled out of last year.

Macron, to promote his vision of a strong Europe, has sought to present a united front while meeting with Chinese officials, especially with Chinese President Xi Jinping. While the primary purpose of the high-level state visit is to coerce economic collaboration from China, perhaps to reduce the levels of French trade deficits with China which are estimated to be around 30 billion euros, Macron is also acting as the EU's unofficial spokesperson. With German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is usually referred to as the leader of the European Union, embroiled in domestic negotiations to form a new German government, Macron has stepped up to fill the void.

Whether his efforts will stem intrusive Chinese involvement in European economic affairs or create more opportunities for Europe to increase its commercial interests in China is unclear as of yet, but will become more evident as the Chinese government makes its policies more transparent in the coming future.




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