France, lagging as a foreign investor in China, is boosting its profile by staging an exhibition in Shanghai to showcase French technology and services. French President Jacques Chirac will open the France '97 exhibition on May 17. It is expected to involve more than 300 French companies in industries such as energy, space, transport, construction, telecommunications, health care, computers, electronics and environmental protection. About three-quarters of the exhibitors will be small or medium-sized firms participating under various regional chambers of commerce. Visiting French Minister of Foreign Trade Yves Galland said: 'This is our biggest exhibition in the world this year . . . and is a move to raise French investment and set up joint ventures in this huge market.' Chinese statistics show France accounted for just 1 per cent of Shanghai's contracted foreign direct investment of US$50 billion up to the end of last year. France may have an annual trade surplus of $24 billion, but only a tiny portion of its exports goes to China. Mr Galland said France aimed to redress this by focusing overseas promotional efforts in China through six exhibitions in Shanghai and four ministerial visits, capped by Mr Chirac's trip. He said he was confident Airbus Industrie would win its battle with United States' Boeing Co to sell planes to China because of their 'high-technology and [competitive] price'. The two companies reportedly have made firm offers to provide China with 110 mid-range and large jets up to 2000. US Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat, now on a China visit, has been beating the drum for Boeing by asking China to give US companies a fair go at winning 20 infrastructure projects, including aviation deals. US Vice-President Al Gore will also promote Boeing and other US companies when he visits Beijing and Shanghai later this month.