DIPLOMACY

China and France to sell nuclear energy

Two sides will use their long history of collaboration in building reactors to market their expertise to new markets overseas, prime ministers say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 3:07am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 3:45am

China and France agreed to expand co-operation in nuclear energy to target new markets after a meeting between the nations' prime ministers yesterday.

"We agreed to jointly exploit third-party markets for nuclear energy. China hopes the two countries can find … [new] space in the markets," said Premier Li Keqiang told reporters in Beijing after his hour-long talk with visiting French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. Li described their discussion as "candid and friendly", according to Xinhua.

Ayrault touted his country's nuclear expertise on the second day of his visit to China - one of the world's largest markets for atomic power stations.

Ayrault said he would tomorrow visit a vast project in the southern city of Taishan , Guangdong, where the countries are building two reactors.

"It is in Taishan that our co-operation in nuclear power is reaching new heights," he said.

French newspaper Le Monde earlier quoted an expert as saying the Taishan project was politically motivated, as it would benefit France to team up with China, which was a "political heavyweight".

The work was progressing "at a steady pace", Ayrault said, adding he hoped it would pave the way for a deal for another two reactors. The two nations first began working together in the nuclear energy field 30 years ago.

Xi is due to visit Paris in the spring to mark the 60 years of diplomatic relations between France and China.

In the meeting with Li, Ayrault said France aimed to host 50,000 Chinese students by 2015 and pledged to streamline the visa process and make it two days.

He also pushed for more French exports in areas such as health care and agribusiness in an effort to better balance trade ties.

"Chinese consumers will soon taste French pork and other products. I am also looking forwards to seeing bilateral co-operation in health and pharmaceuticals," Ayrault said.

France's trade deficit with China reached €27 billion (HK$285 billion) last year, according to the French economy minister. Both sides also agreed to expand co-operation in aviation, trade, finance, and car manufacturing.

Ayrault arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a five-day visit.