French President Macron says he told China's Xi dialogue needed on Hong Kong

Macron calls for restraint and says he raised the topic ‘on several occasions’ during his visit

Two sides find common ground on need to defend free trade and fight climate change as Donald Trump starts process of pulling US out of Paris Climate Agreement

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he had raised the situation in Hong Kong, rocked with unrest since several months, with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

“I shared our concerns and those of Europe”, he said during a news conference at the end of a three-day trip to China.

“We have repeatedly called on the parties involved to dialogue, to show restraint, to de-escalate,” he said, adding he had told Xi the “core of the issue (is) to stress the need for a de-escalation through dialogue”.

Macron’s visit to China concluded with pledges to work together on climate change, but the French leader also said he also called for a de-escalation of the situation in the city through dialogue following months of protests.

Macron, who had promised to raise “taboo” topics during the visit, told a press conference: “I obviously raised this with President Xi Jinping on several occasions.

The discussion followed Xi’s meeting with Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Shanghai on Monday, where he expressed “high trust” in her and “fully affirmed” support for her response to the unrest that has gripped the city since June.

Earlier the two leaders had restated their commitment to protect free trade and pledged their continued support for the Paris Agreement as the United States begins the process of formally withdrawing from the global climate deal.

Macron expressed “regret” over “some countries’ negative attitude” towards environmental protection and the fight against climate change and pledged to work with China to halt the loss of biodiversity.

The French president’s office also released a statement on Wednesday that reaffirmed France and China’s joint support for the “irreversible” Paris Agreement.

With the European Union, China and Russia backing the pact, he added, “the isolated choice of one or another is not enough to change the course of the world. It only leads to marginalisation”.

The two countries also agreed to work together to develop joint nuclear power projects and signed a series of contracts worth US$15 billion.

The deals covered aeronautics, energy and agriculture, including approval for 20 French companies to export poultry, beef and pork to China.

An additional action plan released after the talks said French utility giant EDF and China General Nuclear Power should be encouraged to cooperate on projects in China or third countries, citing the joint efforts by the two companies to build nuclear reactors at the Hinkley Point C station in the UK as an example.

The two sides also committed to signing a contract for the construction of a nuclear fuel recycling plant in China, which would involve French energy giant Orano, by January 31.

Xi took what appeared to be a veiled swipe at the United States, which is still embroiled in a protracted trade war and other confrontations with Beijing.

“We advocate for mutual respect and equal treatment, and are opposed to the law of the jungle and acts of intimidation,” Xi said.

“We advocate for openness, inclusion and for mutually beneficial cooperation, and are opposed to protectionism and a zero-sum game.”

Macron said China and the European Union should work in partnership as the world becomes more unstable, calling on the two sides to further open up market access.

“We call again for trade multilateralism to respond to distortions that have appeared in the global economy, which have led to a profound rise in inequalities and imbalances that explain the surge of challenges to the international systems,” he said.

“China and Europe also share the same views that the trade war only leads to loss”

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