Deal-making ahead as China president visits France

LYON, France (AP) Chinese President Xi Jinping was the toast of France as he embarked on a state visit and what better time just days after China ended an anti-dumping, anti-subsidy investigation of French wine.

Deal-making and commemorations of a half-century of French diplomatic ties with Communist China were the order of business during Xi's three-day visit, part of his European tour. French officials said the signing of dozens of commercial accords large and small from nuclear energy to aerospace to agribusiness, even including a possible sausage deal were being lined up.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were traveling Wednesday to Paris, a day after arriving in the southwestern city of Lyon a key French destination on the Silk Route centuries ago. They began the day visiting a medical research center and a decades-old Franco-Chinese institute in the city.

"My visit to France comes at a particular moment, and will allow for work with President Francois Hollande and other French leaders to take stock of 50 years of Sino-French relations, and plan the future together," Xi said at a reception following his arrival.

France wants its relations with China to flourish, not least because of a whopping 25.8 billion-euro ($35.6 billion) trade deficit with what is now the world's second-largest economy. That shortfall represents roughly 40 percent of France's total foreign trade deficit.

French officials also want France to increase its market share in China from about 1.5 percent today noting with no small amount of envy that Germany's is about 5 percent.

But many French workers, already worrying about double-digit unemployment rates in France, are fretting about the impact on wages from doing more business with China.

China, already a world leader in manufacturing, is looking to scale up production of value-added goods and services and tap into French savoir faire in high-tech industries.

Under President Charles de Gaulle in 1964, France broke with many Western allies and recognized Communist China's government. Since then, relations have been generally smooth despite differences at times on issues like human rights, Tibet and the civil war in Syria.

China launched the probe of French wine last year amid a dispute between the European Union and China over super-cheap Chinese solar panels. The solar panels side of the spat was resolved months ago, but China's wine probe continued until last week's announcement that it had ended.

At Tuesday's reception at Lyon City Hall, Xi and Chinese envoys nibbled on sausage and chocolates, and sipped Beaujolais.

"The wine market in China is very big," said Xi a point surely not missed by the French.


Jamey Keaten and Sylvie Corbet contributed from Paris.