French PM arrives in China

21st December 2009, Comments 0 comments

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon arrived in China Sunday for a visit aimed at pushing forward relations between the two countries following a rift over Tibetan issues that lasted one year.

BEIJING - In an indication that relations are now back on track, Fillon will meet with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao during his three-day stay, and also hold talks with President Hu Jintao.

Fillon is accompanied by finance minister Christine Lagarde and around 20 chief executives on the trip, during which nuclear cooperation will be high on the agenda.

Energy firm EDF and nuclear group Areva will sign two joint ventures with the Chinese state-owned giant CGNPC to launch "the operational phase" of the construction in southern China of two nuclear reactors.

Safran, the French aerospace and defence industries group, along with US firm General Electric, is expected to win a contract to equip the C919, the future Chinese competitor to the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737, with engines.

The contract is thought to be worth billions of euros.

French and Chinese officials are also expected to touch on climate change following the end of the Copenhagen summit Saturday during which the Asian giant -- the world's largest carbon emitter -- played a key role.

In an interview published Sunday, French junior ecology minister Chantal Jouanno criticised "the completely closed attitude of China and India" during the summit.

Relations between the two nations deteriorated last year when the Paris leg of China's Olympic torch relay was disrupted by pro-Tibet protesters.

They hit a low point in December 2008 when President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader whom Beijing accuses of seeking independence for the Himalayan region -- a claim he denies.

Four months later, though, the two countries were officially reconciled on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in London, and Sarkozy subsequently invited Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit France.


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