BEIJING: French President Emmanuel Macron called for an overhaul to relations between China and the European Union, pushing for more balanced trade ties while embracing President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure push.
Speaking on Monday in the ancient imperial capital of Xian, the eastern departure point of the Silk Road trade route, Macron repeated a call for “reciprocity” in trade ties between China and Europe. At the same time, he sought to cooperate with Xi on his Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to spend billions of dollars bolstering infrastructure links between Europe and Asia.
“I came here to tell China my determination to get the Europe-China partnership into the 21st century,” Macron said in a speech that ran for more than an hour. “I want us to define together the rules of a balanced relationship in which everyone will win. We must first decide on a frame together.”
Macron, 40, is making his first trip to Asia since winning office last year. The three-day state visit will test his ability to simultaneously woo Xi while threatening to make life harder for him as he pursues a more economically sovereign Europe willing to block outside investments.
To Western governments including France’s, Xi’s public defense of globalization has yet to translate into serious attempts to open up China to foreign companies. In the speech on Monday, Macron said that “the ancient Silk Roads were never only Chinese” and said joint work on the route should ensure common intellectual property, competition and access to public markets.
“The new roads cannot only go one way,” Macron said. While expressing sympathy with Xi’s efforts to get the world behind the Belt and Road Initiative, he said it “must meet our own plans as well.”