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Macron in China

By Patrick Higgins  |  09/01/2018 16:13
French President Emmanuel Macron, continuing with his three-day state visit to China, has spoken out yet again today in favour of intensified economic Chinese investment. But the President included conditions of more stringent screening to assure that the European economies benefit equally from such complex 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.

Trade opportunities

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 their domestic markets.  To further this aim, over 50 French businessmen travelled with Macron to China, seeking to promote the agenda of greater market access.  Additionally, Macron has been a crucial advocate for the protection of European markets, citing the lack of balance between the actions of Chinese firms in Europe to European companies in China.  Macron has especially been vocal in Brussels against Chinese steel dumping in Europe and has pushed for more stringent European regulations against invasive foreign economic agendas.

Level playing field

Macron, who has been active in advocating the agendas of both France and the broader EU throughout his state visit, has additionally spoken of the need for increased cooperation between Chinese and European economic interests.  One particular instance he highlighted is that of the Chinese, "Belt and Road," initiative of constructing connecting infrastructure across Eurasia to increase intra-Eurasian trade.  Macron cited this as a perfect example of the potential of Europe 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 $124 billion plan, 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 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 fills void

Macron, who appears to be well-read on the nature of these fears, has sought to present a united front while meeting with Chinese officials, especially with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  While promoting the primary motivator of economic collaboration with China along the lines of reducing French trade deficits, which are estimated to be around 30 billion euros, Macron is also acting as the EU's unofficial spokesperson.  With German Chancellor Angela Merkel, usually referred to as the EU's head, 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 clearer in the coming future.


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