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In China, Macron urges openness, pitches France Inc

Reuters  |  BEIJING 

By and Tom Daly

(Reuters) - offered on Tuesday to open up the French economy to Chinese investment in exchange for greater access to China's booming markets, warning in talks in that existing trade imbalances would lead to protectionism.

On the first state visit of his eight-month-old presidency, Macron is hoping greater openness from China, coupled with lobbying from the 50-strong business delegation travelling with him, will help narrow the 30-billion-euro ($36 bln) trade deficit runs with

But despite bringing with him a delegation of French business, and industry - including senior executives from Airbus, BNP Paribas, AccorHotels, EDF and - there were no immediate announcements on the second leg of his three-day trip of major deals. Instead, smaller contracts or commitments to go on talking were signed.

was set to announce plans for a joint-venture on consumer credit, a French in said, adding that French group had "never been so close" to signing a contract to build a waste reprocessing plant in

"We have an access to markets which is unbalanced, unsatisfying," Macron told members of the French and Chinese business community at a start-up incubator in

"If we don't deal with this responsibly, the first, natural, reaction will be to close up on both sides."

In his short time in office, 40-year-old Macron has managed to push through reforms to France's labour market and seen a steady rise in business and consumer confidence. Growth forecasts for 2018 have been upgraded.

Macron has emerged as arguably the strongest voice in Europe, in the absence of either German and British leadership, with bogged down in coalition swamped by Brexit.

Soon after arriving in China, the French declared that "is back", announcing he intended to visit every year of his five-year presidency.

OPEN ON BOTH ENDS

But while the rhetoric has been strong, and TV commentary suggests Macron and his glamorous 64-year-old wife have been a big hit with the Chinese, the underlying success of state visits is often measured in the size of business contracts.

Planemaker was in talks to sell 100 or more jetliners to China, officials familiar with the talks said last week.

But after an contract signing ceremony on Tuesday, it appeared that an deal had not been clinched.

That would be a significant setback for Macron and Europe, although it is possible details will be finalised in the weeks ahead.

U. S. Donald Trump's visit to last year coincided with an announcement by that it had sold 300 aircraft to

Without a big dollar figure attached to the visit, Macron appeared to have fallen short, although French officials said had asked them not to put a figure on any commercial and industrial deals they did strike.

Jack Ma, of Alibaba, gave Macron's pitch for more openness his backing on Tuesday, but added both sides had a part to play.

"I think he's right, should open more, is opening more," he told reporters on the sidelines of a business forum in

"should open more, should open more," he added.

Foreign businesses in though have grown more pessimistic about Beijing's market restrictions even though government officials have repeatedly pledged to increase access. These businesses have also chafed at government policies they see as intended to assimilate and supplant

"We welcome to expand investment in and exports of high-grade French products, and we hope the French side will further loosen exports of to China," China's told Macron, according to a statement.

Macron, who met on Monday, said the two countries would fall into a lose-lose situation if continued restrictions on foreign firms in prompted and to put a brake on Chinese investment in

"Let's open up both instead," said Macron, whose government has at the same time called for greater scrutiny of Chinese investment in Europe, particularly in sensitive sectors, concerned about protecting French interests and security.

The two presidents met again on Tuesday at of the People, and oversaw the signing of bilateral agreements, including the framework deals for and in

Chinese agreed to sell 2 billion euros worth of French products - such as cognac or Evian water - on its website over the next two years. also signed a deal to buy 100 million euros of from French engineering firm

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Additional reporting by Tom and Michael Martina; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, and Neil Fullick)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 09 2018. 19:52 IST
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