France wants better access to the Chinese market and a more “balanced” trade relationship, not a “decoupling” from the world’s second-biggest economy, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday after meeting top Chinese officials.
“We don’t want to face some legislative hurdles or some other barriers to get access to the Chinese markets,” Le Maire told a press conference in Beijing a day after what he called “constructive” trade talks with Vice Premier He Lifeng.
“This of course was at the core of our discussions,” he said. “We want to get a better access and a more balanced access to the Chinese market.”
At Saturday’s meeting, He said China hoped France could “stabilise the tone” of EU-China relations, while Beijing was willing to deepen cooperation with Paris in some areas.
European officials have repeatedly said they wanted not to decouple from China but to “de-risk” in the face of what the Group of Seven calls China’s “economic coercion”.
“Derisking does not mean that China is a risk,” Le Maire said. “Derisking means that we want to be more independent and that we don’t want to face any risk in our supply chains if there would be a new crisis, like the COVID one with the total breakdown of some of the value chains.”
China is France’s third-largest trade partner, but French firms are increasingly concerned they could get caught in the crossfire of rising rivalry between Washington and Beijing, the world’s economic superpowers.
Asked about fears amongst some European automakers that cheap Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) could flood European markets, Le Maire said France had its own plan, which it was working with Europe on, to better focus France’s and Europe’s EV subsidies to increase competitiveness.
“We stand ready to have Chinese investments of the automotive industry in France and in Europe,” he said, adding it would be “a very good thing” to have the Chinese companies investing and developing in Europe.
Le Maire said France was on the right track, paving the way to better access to the Chinese market for French cosmetics