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Premier Li wraps up European tour

Premier Li Keqiang has wrapped up his five-day visit to Europe and is now back in Beijing. The final day of his trip took him to Toulouse, southwestern France.

Accompanied by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the Premier visited the headquarters of aircraft manufacturer Airbus and an assembly plant.

After the tour, an agreement was signed to set up a second Airbus cabin plant in China. The 150-million-euro facility will be placed alongside an existing assembly line for smaller A320 jetliners, in the northern port city of Tianjin, from late-2017. It will be responsible for finishing cabin work on large A330 jetliners.

Warming relations between Beijing and Paris led to the first visit in a decade by a Chinese Premier to France.

During his five-day visit to Europe, Premier Li witnessed the signing of more than 50 business deals, worth tens of billions of euros, including an agreement with Airbus for 45 passenger jets , as well as a financial deal with CMA CGM, the world’s third largest container shipping group.

In Brussels, there were two key phrases for Premier Li: investment and trust.

“The Chinese side is of the view that China-EU relations, particularly in terms of economic relations and trade, are not only about buying and selling,” the Premier said.

He said China will continue to buy European bonds, and that the Greek debt crisis will not weaken Beijing’s confidence in Europe.

He also pledged a multi billion investment in a new EU infrastructure fund.

“We should expand mutual investment and even make joint investment. The Chinese side is willing to positively participate in the EU side’s investment plan,” Premier Li said.

In France, the focus for the Premier shifted to production capacity cooperation. Unlike in previous cooperation deals, China and France are planning to team up to explore third-party markets, such as developing countries in Asia and Africa.

The Premier proposed combining China’s comparative advantages in production capacity and equipment manufacturing, with the advanced technology of European economies.

Curbing climate change was another focus for Premier Li, as he pledged to cut China’s carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP, by 60 to 65 percent on 2005 levels by 2030, as well as increasing China’s share of non-fossil fuels in the country’s primary energy consumption sector.

“Sustainable development includes at least two aspects: the first is stable growth and continuous poverty reduction. The second aspect is that we need to promote energy saving, environmental protection, low carbon and green development. These two aspects are not entirely the same, and there might be contradictions. However, mankind has the wisdom to handle them well,” he said.

In this move towards clean energy, Premier Li sought cooperation in nuclear power with France.

In a program estimated to be worth US$100 billion, Beijing aims to almost triple its domestic nuclear power capacity by 2020. But even then, it would only meet 3 percent of China’s total electricity needs.

France has long been a world leader in nuclear power. As China embarks on massive nuclear expansion, there will be plenty of opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.