“China is not looking for a trade surplus but wants to import more French goods," Li told on the second day of his visit, according to a source close to the delegations.
France has a 26-billion-euro trade deficit with China, a gap that officials regard as unsustainable, and accounts for just 1.3 per cent of its foreign trade, compared to about five per cent for Germany.
So Li’s words will have been welcome and Hollande told reporters that the Chinese had given a “perfect response” to “requests that we made”.
Hollande, the first Western leader to meet new President Xi Jinping in Beijing, promised to remove obstacles to Chinese investment in France.
On Thursday the two countries announced a deal for China to buy 60 Airbus planes – a contract that could be worth 5.9 billion euros, although Beijing may negotiate a discount.
China’s electrical company CGNPC signed a letter of intention with Areva to work on nuclear power – a project that was already in the works but had been slowed down by a cooling of relations last winter.
Under fire from NGOs for allegedly sacrificing human rights for trade, Hollande insisted that he had raised Tibet and other rights questions in a “frank and respectful manner” with Chinese leaders.
During the visit one of France’s top tycoons, Pinault group CEO François Pinault, told Xi that his family would give back two antique bronzes pillaged during the 1860 sack of the Summer Palace in Beijing.
China demanded their return in 2009 when the pieces, part of the art collection of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, were put up for auction.