c.2013 New York Times News Service
HONG KONG — French leaders and top officials are winding up a slew of meetings with China’s new leadership, an effort to market the troubled French and eurozone economies to a powerful investor.
“More and more things are happening here,” said Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, in a speech in Hong Kong on Monday. “The world of tomorrow is emerging in places such as Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore, and France is fully committed to be part of this movement.”
Fabius accompanied the French prime minister, François Hollande, on a two-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai in late April, the first visit by a leading European politician to China since President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang were officially installed as China’s top leaders in March. France’s finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, joined the courting with a visit to Hong Kong.
The high-level meetings reflect the eagerness of France — and many of its eurozone neighbors — to woo an economy that has become an increasingly important engine of global growth in recent years. Chinese purchases of Western government debt have helped beleaguered Western economies weather the global financial turmoil of recent years, while its consumers are increasingly crucial to many European and U.S. retailers and manufacturers.
In an example of its purchasing prowess for big-ticket items, China in late April signed a deal with Airbus, the European plane manufacturer, for 60 aircraft worth at least $8 billion at list prices.
The gradual shift of China’s economy away from infrastructure investment toward more domestic consumer demand, however, is expected to generate growing demand for other industries in the coming years — with potential businesses opportunities to match.
Fabius on Monday made no secret of the fact that France is hoping to get a slice of the pie in growing sectors like health care, agricultural products, food and beverage, and products and services that will aid urbanization — which the new Chinese leadership has declared a key driver of future growth.
France’s exports to China are currently dominated by luxury goods, aircraft and nuclear energy sectors.
On Monday, France and Hong Kong signed a bilateral working holiday program that will allow French and Hong Kong citizens aged from 18 through 30 to spend one year in the other country, and to take up employment, if necessary, to finance their stay.