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China, France seek new areas of economic cooperation


09:11, April 27, 2013

BEIJING, April 26 (Xinhua) -- China and France -- two highly complementary economies -- are seeking to expand their economic cooperation beyond the traditional sectors of nuclear energy and aviation.

Besides the signing of an agreement for China to buy 60 planes from France-based Airbus and a range of other deals in the nuclear energy industry, the two countries agreed to boost cooperation in sectors such as environmental protection, urban sustainable development and food safety during French President Francois Hollande's visit to China.

The wider cooperation will help ease the persistent trade imbalances between the two countries, as China will present a huge market to France's advanced products and technologies, said Qu Xing, head of the China Institute of International Studies.

China is now France's biggest trade partner in Asia, while France is China's fourth largest in the eurozone. In 2012, two-way trade amounted to 51.02 billion U.S. dollars, with France seeing a 2.8-billion-U.S.-dollar deficit.

The key of correcting the imbalance is not by reducing investments and exports, but rather by increasing them further, Hollande said during his visit.

Qu said China's ongoing urbanization drive and the emphasis on domestic consumption is a good chance for France to boost its exports to the country.

China's urbanization rate of 51.3 percent is far short of the over 70 percent rate seen in developed economies, which means huge potentials on the demand side, he noted, adding France's city management will help China to address the challenges that surface during the process, including air pollution and food safety.

Earlier in January, Premier Li Keqiang, then vice premier, said to visiting French Minister of Economy and Finance Pierre Moscovicivice that China hoped to work more closely with France and other highly urbanized European countries in ideas, technology and markets in the country's urbanization initiative.

At a business forum on Thursday, officials and enterprises from the two countries exchanged ideas and tapped cooperation opportunities in a variety of areas, including agriculture food, healthcare, urban sustainable development and digital economy.

Wan Zaotian, vice president of China's state-owned grain and oil giant COFCO, said at the forum that his company hopes French counterparts can share their experiences in technology and management to help combat the much-criticized food safety issues in China.

At the forum, President Xi Jinping stressed that China is willing to import more French products and expressed hope that France will help urge the EU to relax restrictions on exporting high-tech products to China.

Both parties agreed to oppose protectionism and create a level playing field to facilitate trade and investments.

"Trade and economic cooperation between China and France are mutually beneficial -- China needs France in its urbanization and France needs the Chinese market due to its economic woes," Qu said.

He expects trade imbalances between the two countries to continue to narrow amid strengthening cooperation.

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