New projects across several industries to improve bilateral economic ties
More trade and enhanced cooperation will characterize the future of Chinese-French economic relations amid the growing tangible benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative, said business executives and experts from both countries.
Aviation, digital innovation, nuclear energy, high-end manufacturing, services and other types of business are expected to benefit a lot from improved bilateral economic and trade relations, they said.
"Although both the Chinese and French economies have been hit by declining global demand for goods and services over the past two years, the degree of interdependence between the two remains stable in bilateral cross-industry trade," said Sang Baichuan, director of the Institute of International Business at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
Bilateral trade reached $62.89 billion in 2018, up 15.5 percent, according to the General Administration of Customs. In the European Union, France remained China's fourth-largest trade partner after Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
China exports mainly construction machinery, manufacturing equipment, steel, electronics, textiles, garments and household appliances to France.
France's main exports to China are passenger vehicles, aircraft, water treatment hardware and technologies, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. It also exports fashion, agricultural products and capital goods relating to energy infrastructure.
"China will continue to export consumer goods and import France's high-tech products such as electronics, passenger aircraft, vehicles and parts and medical equipment," said Xue Rongjiu, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Society for WTO Studies.
Bilateral trade is growing, boosted by China's ongoing consumption and industrial upgrades, and this will likely continue to attract more French investment to China, he said.
Danone SA, the French food producer, also plans to distribute more health-focused food and beverages in China over the next five years in an effort to keep up with the improving local lifestyles.
Bertrand Austruy, Danone's executive vice-president, said there is tremendous mid- to long-term growth potential in the Chinese market, given rising incomes and greater urbanization. Such factors encourage consumers to prefer top-quality, healthful foods, he said.
"The consumption upgrade is also about the upgrade of consumption mindset, and we have noticed the rising awareness among Chinese consumers about nutritious and healthy diets," he said.
Gary Rosen, chairman and chief operating officer for China operations of Paris-based AccorHotels Group, said the Chinese market has been the fastest-growing for inbound and outbound tourism over the past 10 years. AccorHotels owns, manages, and franchises more than 4,600 hotels and properties worldwide.
"With the growth of Chinese upper- and middle-income earners, travelers are increasingly looking for authentic experiences, individualized accommodation styles, the chance to be deeply connected with the destinations they visit and for luxury that is about feelings as much as it is about product," said Rosen.
In terms of seeking new growth on a broader level, the BRI will help China and France further realize their goals for economic growth in many practical and innovative ways, said Bai Ming, deputy director of the International Market Institute at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
He added that the BRI, as a multilateral cooperation platform, can boost infrastructure connectivity, investment and trade not only in Eurasia but also in Africa and Latin America.
Li Jin, chief researcher at the China Enterprise Research Institute, said many countries' surging demand for better infrastructure will provide opportunities for French and Chinese banks, project design firms, contractors and material and equipment manufacturers.
Big opportunities are foreseen in segments like next-generation oil refineries, new energy vehicles, modern factories, high-quality roads, airports and container ports.
"China's proposal to explore third-party market cooperation could bring benefits to both Western nations and developing countries involved in the BRI, without causing a clash of interests," Li said.