France signs deals with China

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"President Macron himself said that France's diplomatic and economic imperatives with China "cannot justify cover-up of the question of human rights", said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch.

The announcement came a day after Macron held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jingpin.

Last year, the aircraft designer secured orders worth $22bn during Xi's Berlin visit in July. "We're confident we'll achieve more than symbolic stuff", a French official said, on condition of anonymity.

The visit has been widely covered in China, and Mr Macron is seen as representing Europe as much as France.

A delegation of French business leaders traveling with Macron signed cooperation agreements with Chinese partners, many of them government-owned, in energy, telecoms, aerospace and other fields.

Macron said he would join Xi's plan to create a trillion-dollar trade and infrastructure network, the One Belt, One Road Initiative across Asia and Europe.

Mr. Macron's boost for Airbus comes as the company is struggling to find buyers for the superjumbo A380, making the fast-growing China market crucial.

It is the first state visit by a European leader since China's Communist Party congress in October, which reinforced Xi's grip on power as he was formally handed a second term and his name was enshrined in the party's constitution.

Macron and Xi also saw eye-to-eye on the battle against climate change, with both voicing their commitment to the Paris accord in the face of US President Donald Trump's pledge to withdraw from the pact.

He said: "We need a coordinated European approach that gives China more visibility about our agenda".

"China stands ready to promote exchanges and enhance mutual trust and cooperation with France in order to inject new impetus into the development of the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership". "If we don't deal with this responsibly, the first, natural, reaction, the one we've had for too long, will be to close up on both sides", Macron said.

Zhang Lun, a political scientist at the Universite de Cergy-Pointoise said that there is still a big push back against western companies gaining a bigger share of China's market.

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