China hopes for nuclear, aviation deals with France

28th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

China said Thursday it hoped to reach agreements with France on nuclear energy and civil aviation during President Hu Jintao's state visit to the European nation next week.

Previous reports have said European aviation giant Airbus is in talks for the sale of dozens of A320, A330 and A350 jets to China -- an order that could be announced while Hu is in France from November 4-6.

"We are positive about expanding cooperation between the two countries in nuclear energy and civil aviation," Chinese vice foreign minister Fu Ying told reporters at a briefing about the visit.

"We hope to reach some agreements and produce some concrete outcomes on this."

Despite tense diplomatic relations in recent years, the two nations maintain important economic ties and have an eight-billion-euro (11-billion-dollar) deal for China to build two French-designed latest generation EPR nuclear reactors.

Airbus has opened its only assembly plant outside Europe in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, which has already produced nearly 30 A320 and A319 jets.

Hu's visit comes at a time of upheaval in France, as hundreds of thousands of people strike in a bid to stop a pension bill that raises the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.

Fu said China hoped the visit would "proceed smoothly".

"The developments in France do not constitute a concern for us and we do not have plans to cancel any activities or even the visit," she added.

Relations between Paris and Beijing soured in March 2008, four months after Sarkozy's first state visit to China, when he expressed shock at a security crackdown in Chinese-ruled Tibet after deadly unrest.

A month later, the Chinese leadership was again incensed when pro-Tibetan demonstrators booed and jostled the Olympic flame as it was carried through Paris on its way to the Beijing Games.

Tensions peaked in December 2008, when Sarkozy held an audience with the Dalai Lama -- whom Beijing accuses of seeking independence for his Tibetan homeland -- but eased when Sarkozy met Hu at a G20 summit in 2009.

The two countries pledged to draw a line under past tensions when Sarkozy visited Beijing in April.

© 2010 AFP

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