Strengthening partnership with China a priority - Minister

China/climate disruption/economy – Joint press conference by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and Mme Martine Aubry, Mayor of Lille, the Minister’s special representative for the partnership with China (excerpts)

Paris, 25 November 2014


THE MINISTER – As you know, when I took office at the Quai d’Orsay I asked a number of leading political and economic figures to kindly agree to be special representatives for a few priority countries or zones. As regards China, it seemed to me necessary to turn to a figure with the experience and determination to match what’s at stake in China. That’s why I chose Mme Aubry; we’re aware of her experience, effectiveness and the remarkable interest she’s had in China for a long time.

Strengthening our partnership with China is indeed a priority, and the whole ministry is getting to work to honour this priority. Since the summer of 2012, I’ve had the opportunity to visit China eight times, and I sometimes joke to my Chinese colleagues and friends that it’s lucky we can’t go there more often, because they must work completely independently in their relationship with France. (…)

On the economic level, which we’ll be focusing on more specifically this morning, the shared goal is to achieve a rebalancing of our trade from the top down. There has been some progress – Martine Aubry will talk about this – but we still have a long way to go. What strikes me is that something very positive has been triggered in the arrival of Chinese investments in France, even though they’re still below what is wished.

We have deeper trade and industrial cooperation in strategic areas that Martine Aubry will talk about.

In the tourism field, we have a genuine, significant improvement, because this year, 2014, I think we’re set to reach two million Chinese tourists. I was looking at statistics which show a 57% year-on-year increase in the number of visas throughout China, with a record in Chengdu. This means our Italian, German and other friends are copying us, and they’re right. We do intend to move quickly towards five million tourists.

However, we’re still far from the following target: for this partnership to take into account the new era in the Chinese economy and society. It’s on this very area – urban planning, agrifoods, energy, the environment, distribution, leisure and health, where France possesses acknowledged expertise – that Martine Aubry has decided to concentrate. Three sectors in particular have been highlighted: sustainable urban development, agrifoods and health, but she’s not ruling anything out, and she’s quite right to choose other sectors.

Each time, Mme Aubry has opted for a pragmatic approach aimed at concrete results and the results are clearly starting to show, particularly in the area of agrifood. But this morning we wanted to put the spotlight on what is undoubtedly the most ambitious achievement: sustainable urban development, with the extremely impressive project to design and build the first Franco-Chinese sustainable new city in Wuhan, in Hubei Province.

This is entering the operational phase. In Lille, Mme Aubry had the opportunity of giving an initial report on this, and what’s being announced is extremely impressive. Firstly, there’s the expertise on both sides with the AFD’s [French Development Agency] recruitment of a team of experts, who are going to implement the blueprint, and the Ministry’s deployment of expertise to monitor the project; but most importantly, the Bank of China has opened credit lines of 20 billion yuan, i.e. €1.2 billion, for investors in the project, which confirms the Chinese side’s extremely strong commitment.

I think it’s absolutely remarkable that we’ve reached this point in just two years. We must salute the work done on the Chinese and French sides.

The other characteristic feature of Mme Aubry’s action is a comprehensive approach which fits in with the concept of comprehensive diplomacy, which I try to emphasize. One sector isn’t separate from another, but basically, one sector gives a lead to another. This is why the emblematic project I was talking about can’t be separated from what’s being done at the moment climate-wise. I want to repeat, in this respect, that the Chinese authorities’ commitment and the agreement passed recently between the Chinese and American authorities bodes – I remain cautious – extremely well for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference and allows the agenda of solutions, which will be one of the most significant aspects of the December 2015 conference, to be translated into concrete action. (…)./.

Published on 22/05/2015

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