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China tells France it wants more balanced trade

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as telling French President Francois Hollande on Friday that Beijing wants more balanced trade with France and is willing to buy more French products.

Hollande was on the second day of a two-day visit to China aimed at rebalancing trade relations between the economic powers.

"China is not looking for a trade surplus but wants to import more French goods," Li said, according to a source close to the delegations.

Hollande said aboard a plane carrying him from Beijing to the commercial capital of Shanghai that he was satisfied with progress made in the talks.

"They responded perfectly to the requests that we made," he said.

The Chinese "do not want to be seen as a country that is seeking (trade) surpluses", Hollande said, adding that he earlier told Li: "I am not seeking deficits."

China's rapid development, far from scaring France, presented a "significant opportunity", he said.

France accounts for just 1.3 percent of China's foreign trade compared with around five percent for Germany, and a trade deficit with China of 26 billion euros ($34 billion) last year is seen in Paris as unsustainable.

On Thursday, the first day of Hollande's visit, the two sides announced a lucrative deal for 60 Airbus planes as Hollande became the first Western leader to meet in Beijing with President Xi Jinping.

The deal, signed in the presence of Hollande and Xi, was part of the French leader's attempt to press China to help reduce its trade surplus with France.

China's pact with Airbus could be worth at least $7.7 billion at list prices, although customers generally negotiate discounts from plane manufacturers.

The French president later vowed to remove obstacles to Chinese investment in France as he vies to drum up anaemic rates of growth in the eurozone's number-two economy.

Hollande told a press conference Thursday that during his talks with Chinese leaders he also raised the issue of Tibet and human rights, with all topics discussed in a "frank and respectful manner".

He said such discussions were not the only purpose of his trip, and that they wanted to talk about political partnership, the Chinese presence in Europe and economic growth.

On Friday, Hollande highlighted the importance of cooperation between the two countries on a range of issues.

"The world needs China and France to deepen regulations, strengthen certain procedures, govern the planet better and to resolve certain conflicts or stave off threats," Hollande told Li.

"We are, like China, aware that we must fight against global warming."

A French source said that both countries' finance ministers would begin to hold regular dialogue, which would provide a forum for discussing sensitive issues such as the view -- shared by Paris -- that China's yuan is undervalued.

Hollande had lunch with Xi on Friday with their respective partners, Valerie Trierweiler and Peng Liyuan -- both women credited with bringing glamour to their career-politician other halves.

Twice-divorced former journalist Trierweiler made waves in France by winning Hollande away from the mother of his four children while Peng, a popular soprano who carries the rank of general, was until recent years far better known than Xi.

Hollande was due to return home on Friday night.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130426/china-tells-france-it-wants-more-balanced-trade-0