[Blog] France welcomes Chinese people in Year of the Horse
London, 12 February 2014
On behalf of France, I am delighted to wish the Chinese community in the UK a happy Year of the Horse.
And what a year it promises to be for Franco-Chinese relations. Fifty years ago, on 27 January 1964, General De Gaulle and Chairman Mao established diplomatic relations between the Republic of France and the Peoples’ Republic of China. This important development will be commemorated throughout 2014, with a number of celebrations culminating in the spring with a state visit to France by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Some view our continent as mired in economic problems, desperately Eurocentric and little interested in trading with emerging powers. But France has an age-old tradition as a trading nation. Much of our trade takes place with the Euro Area – unsurprisingly, since that is where we live. Another sizeable chunk is with non-Euro Area countries in Europe. The UK, for instance, is our fourth-largest customer, and accounts for our single largest trade surplus. But our trade with the rest of the world, and with China in particular, is also thriving. In 2013, China and Hong Kong were our second-largest customers, with €41.2 billion worth of exports. This covers a wide spectrum of areas, from nuclear energy and aeronautics to luxury goods. And we hope to do much more in the future.
But back to Britain. To our Chinese friends in this beautiful country, I repeat that you are also very welcome across the Channel, for work or leisure. France is an old friend. It is open for business. There is a wealth of opportunities for you, so please visit our “Invest in France” platform for useful practical information (http://www.invest-in-france.org/cn). For those who live in the UK, nothing is easier than to jump on a Eurostar, plane or ferry, or to drive through the tunnel with your car. In terms of visas, you will find dedicated staff and an efficient online platform for making appointments (http://www.ambafrance-uk.org/Visas,21435). Most visas for Chinese tourists are processed within a record 48 hours. And remember: you are only a few hours away from the exquisite sights of Paris and the ski slopes of the Alps, from the home of haute cuisine, and – bearing in mind that China is overtaking France as the leading global consumer of wine – from the birthplace of Château Margaux and Château d’Yquem. So, we hope that to the joys of London and the marvellous English countryside you will add the calming sight of vineyards and the lofty spires of our cathedrals. You will be most welcome.
Once again, at the start of this auspicious year, allow me to send you my warmest greetings. Xin nian kuai le!
Bernard Emié, French Ambassador to the UK