Chinese PM wraps up fruitful visit to France

7th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, Dec 7 (AFP) - Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao hailed the trust and cooperation between his country and France as he completed the first leg of a European tour that resulted in billions of euros worth of contracts being signed.

CANNES, France, Dec 7 (AFP) - Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao hailed the trust and cooperation between his country and France as he completed the first leg of a European tour that resulted in billions of euros worth of contracts being signed.

On his last stop of a four-day visit to France, an inspection of the Franco-Italian Alcatel Alena Space satellite facility on the French Riviera that is to build a Chinese television orbiter, he said: "Our cooperation in space shows the character of the cooperation between China and France.

"It also shows the depth of the political trust and the positive outlook of our scientific cooperation."

A Chinese deal signed in Paris on Monday to purchase 150 mid-range jets from Airbus for a value of nearly 10 billion dollars (eight billion euros) dominated Wen's visit.

The precondition to that mega order -- Airbus's biggest to date -- was that the European plane-maker investigate the feasibility of opening an aircraft assembly plant in China.

That memorandum of understanding was inked within two hours of Wen's touching down in France on Sunday, when he headed straight to Airbus's headquarters in Toulouse.

Everywhere he went, it was clear Wen's focus was on strategic business-making -- a goal that France was keen to accommodate, having invested many years and much prestige in prying open the expanding Chinese market.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who greeted Wen on Monday, signalled the efforts were unflagging and emphasised their countries' cooperation.

Villepin also reiterated France's view that an EU arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was "anachronistic" and should be ended.

With Western companies seriously courting China -- and its increasingly wealthy 1.3 billion people -- Wen and his government are ensuring that any big deals come with strings attached, namely the transfer of know-how and technology to their country so it can be a heavy manufacturing powerhouse of the future.

Experts say that the transfer of technology is often the clincher in negotiations.

That interest in technology was at the forefront of a visit Wen made Tuesday to the site of the planned 4.6-billion-euro International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) to be built by the European Union, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, South Korea and India in southern France.

The Chinese leader stressed the interest the whole world has in developing energy sources to replace dwindling fossil fuels.

China is especially hungry for energy to keep pace with its ever-growing, increasingly industrialised economy.

But Wen also took the opportunity of his visit to warn France that it has to sweeten its offer if it wants to win a current, eight-billion-dollar (6.8-billion-euro) tender China has put out for the construction of four third-generation nuclear power reactors.

The French company Areva is vying for that contract but faces stiff competition, notably from Westinghouse of the United States.

Wen left France for Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. He was scheduled to also visit the Czech Republic and Portugal before heading back to Asia.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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