Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) and his French counterpart Manuel Valls attend a joint press conference after their talks in Paris, France, June 30, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
Agreement includes businesspeople, students; more processing agencies to be opened
France, the world's top tourism destination, will make it easier for Chinese tourists, businesspeople and students to travel, work and study in the country. [Special coverage]
The agreement, which will offer more multiple-entry visas that are valid for five years, was revealed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Paris on Tuesday, though specific numbers were not available.
It followed the European Union's announcement that it would set up visa centers in 15 Chinese cities that do not have embassies or consulates for EU nations.
France also will establish visa-processing agencies in China outside of its embassies or consulates, Premier Li Keqiang told reporters at a joint news conference with Valls. The announcement did not include specific numbers of visa centers or identify where they would be located.
Li also vowed to roll out reciprocal measures to facilitate visits by French citizens to China.
Valls said he hoped to see more people-to-people exchanges between the countries, especially among younger generations.
France has reinforced its position as one of the top destinations for Chinese, the single biggest source of global tourism and the biggest-spending, after it launched a 48-hour visa processing system last year.
The number of Chinese tourists going to France surged to 2 million last year and is expected to reach 5 million a year by 2017, according to French figures.
Zhang Jinling, a French studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said France places a high value on the massive Chinese market amid its efforts to boost its tourism sector and shake off an economic downturn.
"The effect of the new policy will be obvious, as it will set a bigger platform for greater exchanges between peoples, consumption stimulation and more investment opportunities," Zhang said.
Almost 85 million foreigners a year support a 150 billion euro ($166 billion) tourist industry that delivers 7 percent of the gross domestic product of the eurozone's second-largest economy, government figures show.
Last month, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius set a target of 100 million foreign tourists per year by 2020.
France has also highlighted the potential for increasing the number of Chinese students, the second-largest source of overseas students for the nation, and the amount of Chinese investment.
Both sides said on Tuesday that they would launch an internship program and planned to quickly increase the number of Chinese students in France from 30,000 to 50,000.
Zhao Chen, a Chinese student who is majoring in public affairs at Sciences Po Paris, said he hopes more European countries will follow France's footsteps in relaxing visa policies for Chinese citizens.