Chirac cheers on 'strategic alliance' with China

27th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

WUHAN, China, Oct 27, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac urged his nation's industry chiefs Friday to further expand their "strategic alliance" with China, a day after overseeing the signing of billions of dollars worth of contracts.

WUHAN, China, Oct 27, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac urged his nation's industry chiefs Friday to further expand their "strategic alliance" with China, a day after overseeing the signing of billions of dollars worth of contracts.

Chirac travelled from Beijing to the booming city of Wuhan — home to 10 million people and a fast-growing auto manufacturing industry — in central China where he laid the foundation stone for a new Peugeot-Citroen factory.

The plant, a 50-50 joint venture with China's Dongfeng, is expected to begin producing cars in 2009, and will tap into China's voracious appetite for new vehicles with an eventual annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles.

Chirac's opening of the plant is another symbol of French industry's deepening involvement in the world's most populous nation and fourth-largest economy, and follows a lucrative day of business deals in Beijing Thursday.

Chirac spent more than an hour meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing, after which the two nations announced that Airbus had secured an order for 150 A320 aircraft that could be worth about 10 billion dollars, based on the jet's current list price.

Airbus also agreed to set up an aircraft factory in the city of Tianjin, with both announcements seen as giving the European giant a much stronger foothold in the world's most lucrative aviation market.

Chirac said in Wuhan Friday the decision to build an Airbus assembly plant in China, the first outside of Europe, was an example of the desire by France to build a "strategic alliance" with the Chinese in the aviation sector.

"This logic must be extended to other areas of our partnership, in which France is ready for the most ambitious cooperation," Chirac told a business lunch in the city.

A total of 13 new deals with French industry were signed Thursday, the second of Chirac's four-day trip to China, including a 1.5-billion-dollar contract involving Alstom SA helping to build 500 Chinese freight locomotives.

Chirac, on his fourth visit to China, said before leaving France the Asian giant would be at "the heart" of French foreign policy and the deals signed this week were just the start of closer economic ties.

"In our long history, our relationship has never been so close and trustful and this visit will enhance our strategic partnership," Chirac said after meeting Hu.

However, Chirac got his visit off to a slightly tense start Wednesday, when he surprisingly addressed the issue of China's poor human rights record, a highly sensitive issue for the Chinese leadership.

In remarks to French heads of industry travelling with him, he said the spotlight of the 2008 Beijing Olympics could lead to "economic and social repercussions" for China if it continued to disrespect human rights.

But the comments appeared not to upset business negotiations, and Chirac reaffirmed Thursday that France wanted to see the lifting of a European arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

In a joint communiqué after their meeting, Chirac and Hu also addressed some of the most pressing international issues, urging North Korea and Iran to heed UN resolutions aimed at curtailing their nuclear ambitions.

After Wuhan, Chirac will head on Saturday to Xian, China's ancient capital and home to the world-renowned army of life-sized terracotta warriors dating back 2,200 years.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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