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President Macron and the French agri-food industry in China

The state visit of President Macron to the People’s Republic of China, from the 8th to the 10th of January 2018, provided an opportunity for Macron to become closer to the Chinese President Xi Jinping. It also gave him the chance to promote the French know-how and more particularly the agri-food industry.

Reaching the Chinese market: one of the French agri-food wish

Among the “extremely important” progresses engaged in this sector with Chinese partners are wines and spirits, beef and dairy products, especially infant milk. Regarding beef, an embargo has been imposed in 2001 following the “mad cow” scandal. It has been lifted in March 2017, except some remaining conditions. They should be all lifted within 6 months, before the original date of 2020, thanks to the French president’s intercession. The French delegation’s official visit should help “to reach trade agreements for the exportation of French products” on the Chinese territory.

Those commercial opportunities shall be made possible thanks to the attention paid to the famed quality control of the French sanitary services. Nevertheless, the discovery of traces of salmonella in Lactalis infant milk powder worries since the beginning of the scandal on the 10th of December 2017. The French administration and the Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire tried to reassure their Chinese partners by showcasing their inflexibility toward the French dairy group. This scandal happened at the time of Chinese wide-ranging investments in France, thanks to the good reputation of its food safety: “The ‘Made in France’ is for us an irreproachable guarantee of quality and traceability”, explained Zhang Liang, Synutra’s founder, a Chinese company specialized in infant milk production.

Agri-business tourism and digital presence

Furthermore, a “declaration of intent on the deepening of co-operation in the agricultural field” has been signed between the French Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Travert and his Chinese counterpart Hang Changfu. This collaboration will cover different subjects: teaching, agricultural vocational training, sanitary monitoring…and is already noticeable on some points, for example the agri-business tourism. Chinese delegations come to France to study French agricultural know-how. This was the case with the visit to a cereal farmer’s, in the French department of Yvelines.

Agri-food sector benefits from a climate favorable to French companies in China. Thus, they should insist on the quality and reassure consumers. Seduction work has to be done in France, when Chinese delegations are on a visit to learn about the French expertise. It also has to be done in China, in order to put products on the stores’ shelves. For these reasons, it is imperative to be present in the Chinese media landscape.