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Asia-Pacific

Contracts signed, China's Xi Jinping due for lavish Versailles dinner

media François Hollande and Xi Jinping, Elysée Palace, 26 march 2014. Reuters/Christophe Ena/Pool

On the last day of his visit to France, Chinese leader Xi Jinping heads to the Palace of Versailles for a concert and a lavish dinner as the visit ends on a more cultural note after the commercial focus of the first two days.

On Thursday morning the Chinese president visited the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which is headquartered in Paris.

He delivered a speech highlighting his country's long history and the importance of cultural diversity, declaring that "through cultural exchanges, people would like to... sow the seeds of peace."

While the president focused on culture on Thursday, some 500 businesses as well as Chinese and French ministers attended a special economic forum, following yesterday’s signing of 50 deals worth 18 billion euros,

At the forum, French finance minister Pierre Moscovici called for more Chinese investment in France in the hope of boosting jobs and growth.

Last year, France had a trade deficit with China worth 25.8 billion euros, Moscovici pointed out that French investment in China was four times higher than Chinese investment in France.

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng called on Paris "to further facilitate Chinese investors setting up (in France) on a legal level", referring to the red tape faced by would be investors in France.

He said that in exchange, "China is ready to import more French products" to re-balance trade between the two countries, which is heavily tilted towards China.

The forum was expected to generate scores of small-scale deals, a day after the multi-billion-dollar contracts signed at the presidency made headlines.

By far the biggest deal Wednesday was a Chinese order for 70 Airbus planes.

The order covers the purchase of 43 mid-range A320 planes and 27 long-haul A330s, the European aviation giant said.

Airbus Helicopters and China's Avicopter also announced a deal to jointly produce 1,000 civilian helicopters over 20 years.

Altogether, the two countries signed agreements in areas as varied as the nuclear, financial and transport sectors.

Paris has been keen for the visit to run smoothly in line with its theme of celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties and several metro stations were closed during rush hours on Wednesday and Thursday while road blocks slowed traffic in some parts of the city.

Although president Hollande briefly mentioned the issue of human rights yesterday, there has been little emphasis of the subject.

On Thursday morning activists from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders unfurled a huge portrait of Xi making an obscene gesture, in a photomontage that carried the slogan: "without freedom of information, no force of opposition."

 

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