PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron defended the values of multilateralism and warned that no one country can redefine international norms, at the end of a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday.
Macron was hosting Xi for a two-day visit as part of the Chinese leader’s tour of Europe, during which the two oversaw the signings of several multi-billion-dollar investment deals.
“No one country, however powerful, can alone redefine the rules of the international game,” Macron said, adding that “no country will come out a winner if the multilateral system implodes.”
Xi arrived in Paris from Rome, where he was seeking support for China’s ambitious infrastructure project, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013. The project aims to connect the Asian giant with Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
On Saturday, Italy became the first member of the G7 to join the initiative, which is also known as the New Silk Road.
While Macron welcomed the bilateral progress made between France and China and the series of trade deals and cultural exchanges, he warned that any and all agreements should be fair and balanced and that “common rules” be respected.
“China and France, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, have a responsibility to map the paths of balance and of cooperation, while always respecting each country’s sovereignty,” the French president said.
Macron insisted that while investment should be encouraged, sovereignty needed to be respected.
He said that bilateral deals must be framed in a wider, European context, saying that the European Union needed a united front to effectively cooperate and deal with China.
“All of this requires that Europe is united and equips itself with a coherent strategy in its dialogue with China, as with its other large partners,” Macron said.
He said that the EU-China dialogue needed to be “built on mutual respect and honesty.”
In that regard, the French president said he shared other European leaders’ concerns “on the question of the respect of individual rights in China,” rights which the EU believes are universal.
China has been accused by various international organizations and NGOs of restricting people’s freedoms amid allegations that Beijing has been detaining ethnic Uighur Muslims in so-called “re-education camps.”
China has defended the camps, saying they provide vocational training programs aimed at eradicating terrorism and religious extremism.
Despite the tensions Macron referred to, he also announced a range of multi-billion-dollar trade deals and agreements on cultural and sporting exchanges and investments.
The Chinese president reassured Macron that his country’s designs on increased investment abroad through the Belt and Road Initiative would be done on terms that are mutually beneficial and which foster cooperation.
He said his choice to travel to Europe, his first trip of 2019, was not coincidental and reflected the importance his country places in its relationship with the EU, China’s largest economic partner.
“Linked by a global strategic partnership, China and France must continue to work towards cooperation and coexistence which is defined by independence, mutual understanding, vision and mutually beneficial cooperation to bring more positive energy to peace, stability and development in the world,” Xi said.
The Chinese president also echoed Macron’s sentiments of protecting the “fundamental norms that govern international relations” and “defend the international rules-based multilateral trade system” amid an ongoing dispute between China and the United States.
“We will remain firmly committed in favor of multilateralism,” he said.
Xi will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Paris on Tuesday before concluding his tour of Europe.