Macron sets Ukraine as priority as Chinese leader pays state visit to France

French president Emmanuel Macron will press China’s Xi Jinping to use his influence to move Russia toward ending the war in Ukraine during a two-day state visit to France.

The leaders are also expected to discuss trade disputes over electric cars, cognac and cosmetics.

Mr Macron’s office said talks about diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine and put pressure on Russia are a top priority for France.

Discussions will also include the Middle East, trade issues and global challenges including climate change.

The European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will join part of the meetings to raise broader EU concerns.

France is the first stop on a European trip by Mr Xi aimed at rebuilding relations at a time of global tensions. After France on Monday and Tuesday, the Chinese leader will head to Serbia and Hungary.

It is hoped that the discussions will help convince China to use its leverage with Moscow to “contribute to a resolution of the conflict” in Ukraine, according to the French presidential office.

Russian president Vladimir Putin recently announced plans to visit China this month.

Mr Macron will press Mr Xi over supplies from Chinese companies supporting the Russian war effort despite EU sanctions, he said.

China claims neutrality in the Ukraine conflict.

France also wants China to maintain a dialogue with Kyiv, added the official.

Last year, Mr Macron appealed to Mr Xi to “bring Russia to its senses”, but the call was not followed by any apparent change in Beijing’s stance.

Marc Julienne, director of the Centre for Asian Studies at the French Institute of International Relations, wrote in a briefing note: “French authorities are pursuing two objectives that are ultimately contradictory.

“On the one hand, to convince Xi that it’s in his interest to help Europeans to put pressure on Vladimir Putin to end the war and, on the other hand, to dissuade the Chinese president from delivering arms to his Russian friend.

“In short, we think that Xi can help us, but at the same time we fear that he could help Putin,” Mr Julienne wrote.

As France prepares to host the Summer Olympics, Mr Macron said he would ask Mr Xi to use his influence to make the Games “a diplomatic moment of peace” and respect the Olympic Truce.

Mr Macron, a strong advocate of Europe’s economic sovereignty, is expected to focus on trade too. He will raise French concerns about a Chinese antidumping investigation into cognac and other European brandy, and tensions over French cosmetics and other sectors.

In a recent speech, he denounced trade practices of both China and the US as shoring up protections and subsidies.

On Monday in Paris, Mr Xi will first join a meeting with Mr Macron and Ms von der Leyen.

“Europe cannot accept such market distorting practices that could lead to deindustrialisation in Europe,” Ms von der Leyen said in a statement ahead of the meeting. “We have to act to make sure that competition is fair and not distorted.”

Mr Macron has coordinated with German chancellor Olaf Scholz, who recently visited China and came to Paris last week for a private dinner with the French president.

German government spokesperson Wolfgang Buechner said on Friday that Mr Scholz in China had “clearly said that the question of over-capacity and competition though subsidies needs to be addressed”.

The EU launched an investigation last autumn into Chinese subsidies and could impose tariffs on electric vehicles exported from China.

The discussions will also be closely watched from Washington, just one month before President Joe Biden is expected to pay his own state visit to France.

Mr Xi’s visit to Paris marks the 60th anniversary of France-China diplomatic relations, and follows Mr Macron’s trip to China in April 2023.

Mr Macron prompted controversy on that trip after he said France would not blindly follow the US in getting involved in crises that are not of its concern, an apparent reference to China’s demands for unification with Taiwan.


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