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French finance minister in China to set up high-level economic contacts

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit France next year Reuters/Jason Lee

Permanent high-level contacts on economic and financial relations between China and France kicked off on Tuesday at a meeting between French French Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici and one of China's four deputy prime ministers Ma Kai in Beijing. Moscovici arrived in China on Monday for a two-day visit as the French government starts work on a top-to-toe revision of the country's tax system.

"We'll be talking about everything - of our financial relations, especially France's role in the internationalisation of [the Chinese currency] the yuan, of our industrial relations, where there are partnerships to be established and also of our trade relations," Moscovici told RFI and other media before leaving.

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"Establishing a high-level economic and financial dialogue mechanism is a decision taken by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his counterpart François Hollande," Ma Kai told Radio China International.

Moscovici hopes to increase Chinese investment in France, although he warned that that the French must "keep an eye on our problems of sovereignty and our strategic interests", an apparent reference to alleged Chinese industrial espionage.

China could play a significant role in helping France become the European hub of the aeronautics and processed food industries, economist Jean-Joseph Boillot told RFI.

Ma also mentioned possible cooperation in nuclear power, urbanisation and new energy sources.

France has a 27-billion-euro trade deficit with China and Moscovici hopes to reduce it with more sales of French goods to Beijing.

He is also due to meet Central Bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan and hopes to persuade him that Paris can play a key role in in international exchanges of the Chinese currency.

France is hoping that relations with the world's second-biggest economy will become warmer still next year when Xi Jinping is expected to visit Paris to mark the 50th anniversary of President Charles de Gaulle's decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic, then ruled by Mao Tse Tung.

The Finance Ministry insisted that Moscovici had agreed to go ahead with the visit with Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, even though the government is meeting unions and employers to discuss revamping the French tax system - a procedure announced by Ayrault only last week that will affect Moscovici's ministry more than any other.