From left: Chinese President Xi Jinping, France's President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hold a trilateral meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 6, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen pressed Xi Jinping at a summit in Paris on Monday to use Beijing’s influence to halt the Russian war against Ukraine, also telling the Chinese leader to accept fair global trade rules.

Xi’s two-day state visit to France is his first visit to Europe since 2019 on a trip that will also see him hold talks in Serbia and Hungary. He has said he wants to find peace in Ukraine even if analysts do not expect any major breakthrough.

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Opening an initial trilateral meeting attended by von der Leyen, Macron said coordination with Beijing on “major crises” including Ukraine was “absolutely decisive” and urged “fair rules for all” in Europe-China trade.

“The future of our continent will very clearly depend on our ability to continue to develop relations with China in a balanced manner,” Macron said.

Xi said China and the EU should “remain partners” and “carry out strategic coordination” and thus “make new contributions to world peace and development”.

‘Flooding European market’

“More effort is needed to curtail delivery of dual use goods to Russia that find their way to the battlefield,” von der Leyen said after talks, adding that “this does affect EU-China relations”.

She added that France and the EU also “count on China to use all its influence on Russia to end Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” saying both Europe and China “have a shared in interest in peace and security”.

Von der Leyen also said she was “confident” Xi Jinping would continue to play an “important role” in de-escalating tensions over nuclear threats made by Russia, hours after President Vladimir Putin ordered nuclear weapons drills involving troops based near Ukraine.

Both Macron and von der Leyen have indicated that trade was a priority in the talks, underscoring that Europe must defend its “strategic interests” in its economic relations with China.

“Europe will not waver from making tough decisions needed to protect its economy and its security,” she said.

Von der Leyen said there were “imbalances that remain significant” and “a matter of great concern”, singling out Chinese subsidies for electric cars and steel that were “flooding the European market”.

Tuesday will see Macron take Xi, who is accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, to the Pyrenees mountains to an area he used to visit as a boy for a day of less public and more intimate talks.

However analysts are sceptical that Macron will be able to exercise much sway over the Chinese leader, even with the lavish red-carpet welcome and a trip to the bracing mountain air of the Col du Tourmalet over 2,000 metres (6,560 feet) above sea level on Tuesday.

The other two countries chosen by Xi for his tour, Serbia and Hungary, are seen as among the most sympathetic to Moscow in Europe.