France wants EU to deal with Belt, Road as a bloc
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's remarks that the Belt and Road initiative lacks transparency are aimed at helping the EU gain leverage as it prepares to participate in the trade and development program, analysts said.
While in Shanghai during his four day visit to China, Philippe said that he hopes the initiative is transparent so that all interested French companies can participate, French media Les Echos reported on Saturday.
Philippe urged projects under the Belt and Road to meet the spirit of the Paris Accord, by respecting climate protection and global trade, the report said.
Saying the initiative lacks transparency shows that France holds a "cautious attitude" toward China's Belt and Road initiative, Xiang Junyong, an expert at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.
"France has felt the pressure since China's influence has increased with more involvement in regions such as Latin America and Africa, where Chinese companies have surpassed French companies," Xiang said.
The EU has expressed interest in the Belt and Road initiative but little action has been taken as France seeks more favorable conditions for the EU to join the Belt and Road initiative, experts said.
European nations, including France, remain confused by China's Belt and Road initiative, considering that many projects include the participation of China's State-own companies.
Xiang said EU countries want to join in the initiative on their own volition but also assume China is playing geopolitics by implementing the initiative.
Governments of 11 EU member states have signed Belt and Road initiative cooperation documents with the Chinese government, according to Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Join as a bloc
The French minister also said Europe is looking for a united response on the Belt and Road initiative. "The more we are united, the stronger we are, and the more we are heard," said the prime minister, French media Les Echos reported.
"France wants a united EU to discuss the initiative with China fearing it may be excluded by bilateral agreements signed under the initiative. This is a reason why Philippe said the initiative lacks transparency," a Shanghai-based expert on European studies surnamed Chen, told the Global Times on Sunday.
France prefers Belt and Road projects that are launched by multiple nations since it wants to earn profits and prevent China's increasing influence in the region, Chen said.
France is also attempting to play the leader of the EU by actively seeking space for the bloc just as China and the US are involved in an escalating trade dispute, Chen said.
Just before Philippe arrived in China, the French Senate Committee issued an assessment of the Belt and Road initiative which includes ambiguous and suspicious content, gbtimes.com reported.
When asked about the assessment report, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said on June 19 that "The Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive initiative for international cooperation… all participating countries can play their roles and gain benefits from it."
When it comes to specific cooperation, China is willing to accommodate the comfort level of all parties, remain open and transparent and abide by universally acknowledged international norms and rules, Geng said.