France’s top diplomat, Catherine Colonna, is scheduled to undertake a significant visit to China this week, aiming to mend strained relations exacerbated by a European anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles (EVs).
According to Bloomberg, the probe, initiated by the European Union in September, has ignited trade tensions, prompting concerns of a potential tariff war. Colonna aims to advocate for a balanced relationship that respects EU sovereignty, emphasising the need to navigate these issues without jeopardising access to China’s market.
French car manufacturers Stellantis NV and Renault SA are facing challenges due to increased imports of affordable EVs from China, where government support provides a competitive edge. In response, France is expected to introduce new criteria for EV support next month, likely excluding China-made vehicles based on their carbon footprint.
“The visit of Catherine Colonna is a pivotal moment as France has been at the forefront of advocating for a more assertive approach to China. The EU investigation into Chinese EVs has heightened tensions, and it’s crucial to find common ground,” Bloomberg quoted a diplomatic source as saying. The visit comes amid a series of high-profile European visits to Beijing, with Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel set to hold the first in-person summit with Chinese leadership in four years.
Beyond the EV tensions, France is also grappling with concerns over intellectual property rights for cosmetics giants such as LVMH and L’Oreal SA. China’s request for detailed data from manufacturing processes to formula compositions has raised alarm.
Colonna’s two-day visit, starting Thursday, is expected to address these concerns, along with broader geopolitical issues, including the war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict, and North Korea’s support for Russia.
“The diplomatic efforts are crucial in managing not only the trade tensions related to EVs but also addressing broader geopolitical challenges. Colonna’s discussions on cultural and scientific cooperation agreements and facilitating visas for Chinese businesspeople highlight the multifaceted nature of the diplomatic mission,” an official in Macron’s office told Bloomberg.
The visit comes after a phone call between Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping, where the Chinese leader expressed a welcome for more French investment. Xi’s potential visit to France next year, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations, adds another dimension to the diplomatic landscape.