Updated: 12/06/2013 03:49 | By Agence France-Presse

300 million Chinese are potential visitors to France: Ayrault

As many as 300 million Chinese are potential visitors to France, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday as he arrived in Beijing for a five-day visit focused on trade.


300 million Chinese are potential visitors to France: Ayrault

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault speaks at the China World Hotel in Beijing on December 5, 2013

The two countries are preparing to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties.

Speaking to reporters at the Forbidden City, the sprawling former imperial complex in central Beijing, Ayrault said that "the future of employment in France also depends on this immense market in China". 

"We have to rebalance our trade flows. Today they work in China's favour, but in future years, they will become balanced if... France steps up to the plate," he said. 

France is the top European destination for Chinese tourists, with a record 1.4 million visitors from China last year. 

Ayrault estimated that in the future, as many as 300 million Chinese could be persuaded to visit France. 

"It's for us to organise ourselves," he said. 

Ayrault -- who arrives in Beijing just as US Vice President Joe Biden departs -- is expected to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang at Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Friday.

One item expected to be at the top of the agenda is agribusiness, an area of increasing opportunity for France as Chinese consumers "are more and more demanding in terms of food safety", Ayrault noted. 

"The new Chinese leadership has a real strategy, and it would be a real mistake for France not to understand that she has a card to play with her big companies and her small and medium-size companies," he said. 

"That's the drive of my visit."

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