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Asia-Pacific

Macron meets with Xi as China, France do business

media French President Emmanuel Macron talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron met Tuesday for talks and to oversee the signing of business deals as the two global leaders seek closer ties.

After touring Beijing's sprawling Forbidden City, Macron met with Chinese business leaders and held talks with top officials at the imposing Great Hall of the People.

Xi, who had already hosted Macron and his wife Brigitte for dinner on Monday night, treated the French leader to a military honour guard at the hall before their meeting.

Macron, who has positioned himself as the leading voice of the European Union, came to Beijing to discuss an ambitious agenda with Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades.

Macron has put on the charm during the visit, giving Xi a Republican Guard horse as a gift and delighting Chinese social media users by releasing a video of him learning to say his climate slogan, "Make the planet great again", in Mandarin.

France, which runs a 30 billion euro deficit with China, wants to "rebalance" its trade relationship with Beijing and, like other European nations, has demanded reciprocal access to the huge Chinese market.

"China is conducting its economic development strategy and, given the size of this market, it has an impact on globalisation as a whole," Macron said while visiting a startup incubator, which offers new companies office space and other services, in Beijing.

"This requires a strong France. If France can't adapt, it will fall behind," he said.

'New hegemony'

The two presidents are expected to oversee the signing of some 50 agreements, including in the strategically key sectors of nuclear energy and aviation.

Macron came to China with some 50 business leaders, including the heads of European aerospace giant Airbus and French state nuclear energy company Areva.

Ahead of the ceremony, Chinese online retailer JD.com announced plans to sell French goods worth two billion euros to Chinese consumers over the next two years -- including high-end wine and cognac -- and spend 100 million euros on French industrial products.

In a keynote speech on Monday, Macron urged the EU to participate in Xi's cherished $1 trillion Silk Road trade infrastructure project despite misgivings, though he warned that the initiative should not create a "new hegemony".

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