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France readies for key visit by China's Li

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is set to begin a three-day visit to France after promising to invest more in the EU. He is also due to outline Chinese carbon emission cuts seen as crucial for Paris' UN climate summit.

Li's visit was to open Tuesday in Paris at talks with host French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls in the aftermath of Monday's China-EU summit.

In Brussels late Monday, Li told the summit that Beijing was ready to invest some of its "ample foreign exchange reserves" in the EU's new 315 billion-euro ($351-billion) infrastructure fund. Greece, he added, should stay in the eurozone.

'Strenuous' efforts on climate

And, foreshadowing his Paris talks, Li promised that China as the world's biggest emitter of harmful gases would make "strenuous efforts to address climate change."

France, as host of the climate summit in December, is anxious to avoid a repeat of the failed 2009 UN Copenhagen summit, the last attempt to reach a global climate deal.

China's so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), once submitted to UN climate officials, is expected to lift pledges to more than half of the world's carbon emissions.

World Bank chief economist Marianne Fay said China's INDC should be seen as a "floor not a ceiling."

China likes to under-promise and over-deliver, Fay said.

Sources in Valls's team quoted by the French news agency AFP said a Chinese climate announcement could also push the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter India to set a clear target to reduce emissions.

French industry eyeing billiions

Sources close to Vall's office quoted by Reuters said France hoped to seal 53 business deals with China during Li's visit worth tens of billions of euros.

Sectors to benefit would include aeronautics, France's largely nuclear energy industry and container shipping.

Sources said Airbus based in Toulouse was in talks to sell at least 50 A330 wide-body jets to China, the world's fastest-growing aviation market.

Diplomatic sources said Li's visit was being given "very high level" protocol treatment.

It comes six months after Valls travelled to Beijing and called for more French products to be exported to China to "rebalance" trade between the two countries.

France, which is struggling with weak growth and record high unemployment. It imports more than twice as much from China compared to what it exports to the Asian nation of 1.4 billion residents.

Interconnect better, says Juncker

Li's host in Brussels on Monday, Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the EU's executive commission, said two-way trade between the EU and China now surpassed one billion euros each day, with China the bloc's second most important trading partner after the United States.

China and the EU should, however, improve the ways in which they "interconnect," Juncker said.

Donald Tusk, the president of the EU's Council of Ministers, said in talks with Li that he had urged China to "restart a meaningful dialogue" with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Tusk said he had also expressed EU concerns about curbs on freedom of expression and association in China in relation to its minorities, including Uighur.

Marseille, Toulouse on itinerary

On Wednesday, Li will head to the southern French city of Marseille where he will be met by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who has visited China twice since March last year.

Li concludes his tour in Toulouse, where he and Valls will attend a France-China gathering to be attended by hundreds of Chinese enterprises.

ipj/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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