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As French diplomacy knocks, China primed to swing open doors on trade

SHANGHAI -- French President Francois Hollande wrapped up a two-day visit to China Friday, confident that France could achieve more balanced trade with the world's second largest economy.

Hollande became the first Western leader to meet China's new president Xi Jinping and picked up a deal potentially worth billions for 60 new Airbus aircraft.

France runs a 26-billion-euro (US$34 billion) trade deficit with China and Hollande said Beijing “responded perfectly to the requests that we made.”

On the second and final day of his visit, his first to China, Hollande met Premier Li Keqiang.

“China is not looking for a trade surplus but wants to import more French goods,” Li said, according to a source close to the delegations.

China's rapid development, far from scaring France, presented a “significant opportunity,” Hollande said, urging Beijing to ease market access.

France accounts for just 1.3 percent of China's foreign trade compared with around 5 percent for Germany but Hollande said the food industry and urban development could help diversify cooperation from its traditional aviation and nuclear sectors.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former prime minister traveling with Hollande, said the visit had been very useful and would contribute to narrowing France's trade deficit with China.

On Thursday, the first day of Hollande's visit, the two sides announced a lucrative deal for 60 Airbus planes.

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