China-EU trade deal is in sight as French president Macron visits Beijing today

French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosted by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing today. Mr Macron’s visit comes as

Chinese President Xi Jinping French President Emmanuel Macron cropped

Photo: China News Service

French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosted by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing today.

Mr Macron’s visit comes as China and the European Union (EU) enter into the final stretch of negotiations over a trade deal they aim to sign by April 2020. Mr Macron has been critical of China’s Belt and Road projects that have started making headway into Europe for the lack of reciprocal opportunities for EU companies into the Chinese market.

Macron seeks “two-way” investment opportunities and will push for greater access for EU—particularly French—companies into the lucrative Chinese market where many sectors are still closed to foreign investment. President Xi has signalled investment opportunities for European companies in Belt and Road projects as well as aerospace, nuclear energy and agriculture. This follows China’s $40 billion purchase of 300 Airbus planes inked earlier this year.

Signs of progress are in the air. Beijing announced the visit will see “between 30 to 40” more contracts signed but with no further detail. However, the big test is whether China commits to reducing trade barriers faced by European companies. These include lax intellectual property protections and industrial laws that advantage Chinese state-owned enterprises competing with foreign firms. Beijing’s actions on this trip will likely determine whether a trade deal can be signed by April 2020.