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Macron, Xi pledge to uphold free trade and build an open global economy

China and France also agree to strengthen cooperation on climate change and preserve the Paris accord

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Mr Macron (left) with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. China and France also signed contracts totalling US$15 billion.

Beijing

CHINA and France vowed to uphold multilateralism and free trade and build an open global economy, as President Xi Jinping nears a phase one trade deal with the US.

Mr Xi's comments came during a three-day visit to China by President Emmanuel Macron. "Together, we sent a strong signal to the world to firmly uphold multilateralism and free trade and build an open world economy. Your speech also aroused strong repercussions and resonance in China," Mr Xi said as the two leaders met on Wednesday in Beijing. Mr Macron met up with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People and attended a state banquet hosted by Mr Xi later in the day.

"I am willing to work with you to face toward the world, the future, to cater to our people, to promote the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France to a higher level, and continue to be at the forefront of the relationship between major powers," he said.

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Mr Macron said earlier this week that China and the European Union will sign an accord to protect products that have a specific geographical origin - such as Champagne or Manchego cheese - in a bid to fight counterfeits. He said the accord would be signed in Beijing on Wednesday.

The EU is China's largest trade partner, and the Chinese market is the second biggest after the US for exports from the bloc.

"I know how committed you are to the European Union and we must build a stable partnership on the big questions of the world in a world that is more and more destabilised," Mr Macron told Mr Xi.

"The capacity we will have to reform the WTO, to avoid trade tensions is absolutely defining."

Earlier this year, Europe claimed a diplomatic victory in the push for Beijing to pursue fairer economic policies, saying a laboriously drafted joint statement signalled important Chinese concessions over curbing subsidies to domestic industries and facilitating market access for foreign companies.

The EU bloc has sought to enlist Beijing's help on numerous fronts as US President Donald Trump has turned his back on international organisations and agreements that had counted on staunch US support.

During Mr Macron's visit, China and France agreed to strengthen cooperation on climate change and preserve the Paris accord.

China and France also signed contracts totalling US$15 billion, a Chinese government official told a news briefing on Wednesday. Deals were struck in the fields of aeronautics, energy and agriculture, including approval for 20 French companies to export poultry, beef and pork to China.

The two countries also agreed to expand a protocol for poultry exports reached this year to include duck and geese as well as foie gras, and to work on a protocol allowing France to export pig semen to China, said a statement from Mr Macron's office.

Energy deals included a memorandum of understanding between Beijing Gas Group and French utility Engie to collaborate on a liquefied natural gas terminal and storage in the northern city of Tianjin.

Among other deals, France's Total will set up a joint venture with China's Shenergy Group to distribute LNG by truck in the Yangtze River Delta. The two countries also agreed to reach an agreement by the end of January on the cost and location of a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility to be built by Orano, formerly known as Areva. China would also support its firms' purchases of Airbus aircraft, boost cooperation, particularly in the helicopter sector as well as on aircraft engines and pilot training. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS