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International relations

Macron warns against China's overtures to EU

Paris and Beijing sign $45bn in deals despite Belt and Road concerns

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a news conference after meeting Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on March 25 in Paris.   © Reuters

PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron urged the European Union to maintain a united front following his Monday summit here with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as more European countries sign on to Beijing's controversial Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative.

"Europe must be united and have a coherent message. That's what we are doing on strategic investments," Macron said in a joint news conference with Xi that day. He suggested that EU members could weaken the union if they join Belt and Road without a shared, bloc-wide strategy.

Xi also seemed to address growing European concerns. "China will always back cooperation and development with Europe, which falls in line with our multilateral values," he said.

The Chinese leader has been touring Europe in an attempt to bring more countries into Belt and Road. Italy on Saturday became the first Group of Seven nation, and the 13th of the EU's 28 members, to join the initiative.

But some European critics worry that Beijing could gain control over the region's key infrastructure unless the EU adopts a coherent stance. A Chinese state-owned company has acquired the Greek port of Piraeus as part of the Belt and Road campaign.

Still, France and China signed 15 business deals totaling 40 billion euros ($45 billion) as part of Xi's trip. Included in that is an order for 290 Airbus A320 planes and 10 A350s -- aircraft whose list prices total about $35 billion, AFP reports.

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