French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna is scheduled to engage in discussions with Chinese leadership in Beijing on Friday, focusing on people-to-people exchanges, but overshadowed by escalating trade tensions following the launch of a European Union anti-subsidy probe into Chinese-made electric vehicles (EVs).
Amidst concerns over the EU investigation, labeled as “protectionist” by Beijing, Colonna's dialogue with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi is anticipated to navigate the strained trade relations. This visit precedes the upcoming in-person summit between European Commission and Council presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel and Chinese President Xi Jinping in early December.
French President Emmanuel Macron has advocated for a more assertive EU stance in economic matters, pushing for a level playing field with nations such as China. France supports the European Commission's probe into Chinese EVs, emphasizing a desire for balanced exchanges.
While China stands as France's third-largest trade partner, concerns persist among European firms regarding trade imbalances, opaque legislation on cross-border data transfers, and the influx of affordable Chinese EVs impacting the European market. Additionally, worries persist about China's attempts to compel French cosmetics companies to disclose manufacturing secrets.
During a recent telephone call, President Xi welcomed French investment in China, addressing concerns raised by Macron over fair treatment for foreign companies. European officials continue to emphasize the need to reduce economic dependencies on China, particularly in critical sectors, amid what the G7 terms as China's “economic coercion.”
Colonna's agenda includes discussions on the Ukraine war, urging China to use its influence on Iran to prevent an escalation of the Gaza crisis, and addressing North Korea's recent claim of launching its first spy satellite. Beyond trade matters, these diplomatic talks reflect the complex geopolitical landscape between France and China.
In the context of France's significance as China's primary source of cosmetics and wine imports, with French luxury giants like LMVH heavily reliant on Chinese consumers, the discussions carry implications for the broader economic relationship between the two nations.
Colonna's visit follows President Macron's high-profile trip to China in April, aimed at showcasing France's strategic autonomy from the United States. The dialogue underscores the delicate balancing act required in navigating diplomatic and economic relations amid growing global uncertainties.