Mar 27 - China's President ends a three day visit to France. Trade and business deals have been on the agenda. David Pollard looks at just how much China can offer a struggling France in terms of help and investment.
Politicians call it pressing the flesh. There was plenty of it as France offered handshake after handshake to the visiting Chinese delegation. President Hollande wants closer ties to help revive foreign trade - and, perhaps, his own fortunes after a bruising for the ruling Socialists in recent local elections. (SOUNDBITE) (French) French President, Francois Hollande, saying: "Eighteen billion euros in contracts means employment, growth and especially prospects for growth for the years to come." Among contracts signed: nuclear energy and liquefied natural gas agreements. And a deal for Chinese carmaker Dongfeng to help recapitalise Peugeot, by buying a 14 percent stake. China is also signing up to buy 27 Airbus airliners and to extend a deal allowing other Airbus to be assembed there. France, says Dominic Johnson of Somerset Capital, is an old and expert hand at selling itself abroad. And despite a recent slowdown, China is a top bet. (SOUNDBITE) (English) Dominic Johnson, CEO & Founding Partner, Somerset Capital, saying: ''You have rising levels of consumption and power amongst a vast population and that's going to be at the core of really everything anyone does, geopolitically and globally. And so France is absolutely right to make a focus on that. We're doing the same in the UK and Germany and every other country is also going to be following suit. '' But Germany - next on President Xi's itinerary - accounts for nearly five percent of Chinese imports. At 1.2 percent, France has a long way to catch up - and may be too late. Recent business data has shown encouraging signs - but its economy is still stumbling under the weight of record unemployment. Michael Hewson of CMC Markets. (SOUNDBITE) (English) Michael Hewson, Chief Market Analyst at CMC Markets, saying: ''You could argue that they probably have missed the boat, but they still need to be doing something to encourage private investment into the French economy, and I think the government has a big part to play in that. They've got to do more than pay lip service to it, they've actually got to implement the reforms.'' France is thought to house Europe's biggest Chinese community, and considers itself an old friend. Fifty years ago, it recognised the Communist regime when others in the West were snubbing it. With the latest charm offensive to woo the Chinese President, it hopes the favour will be returned.