France Tightens Controls on Chinese Investment to Protect Tech

Updated on
  • Macron says EU doesn’t have to be ‘totally open’ to China
  • EDF, Safran sign deals, while Areva lines up nuclear contract

France is tightening controls on Chinese investment to limit access to its technology, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on an official visit to Beijing.

“If investors come to France or Europe only to gain access to the best technology without benefiting France or any other European country then they are not welcome,” Le Maire told reporters over a lunch with reporters also attended by President Emmanuel Macron. “There are looters in every country, and all of them need to understand that Europe has the means to protect itself.”

Le Maire said he has refused multiple Chinese investment offers since taking office last May in order to protect French interests. “It’s better to have long term relations with concrete results than big ceremonial contract signings with no results,” he added.

The remarks reflect Macron’s shift on trade policy as he tries to open up new markets for French companies while also defending the interests of the European Union. The French stance underscores a growing unease in parts of the EU at the one-sided nature of Chinese trade and the potential for China and other countries to pick off strategic European technologies.

Balance

Macron, on his first official visit to China as president, promised to return once a year as he seeks to “rebalance” his country’s relationship with Beijing.

“I want investment but there are areas that we consider strategic,” Macron told reporters on the trip. “When there is very high value-added technology and sensitivities linked to sovereignty” there is no reason to be “totally open,” he said.

The French president’s visit was nevertheless marked with some contracts. Safran SA signed a $2.9 billion deal to provide engines to Spring Airlines, according to a statement from the French president’s office. It also signed contracts to provide engines to Xiamen Airlines and Hainan Airlines

Electricite de France SA signed two energy-services contracts, while New Areva Holding and China National Nuclear Corp. signed a“memorandum of commercial agreement” to pursue a multi-billion dollar nuclear-waste recycling project. The aim is to complete that agreement this spring, Le Maire said.

— With assistance by Linly Lin

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