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December 22, 2009

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China, France lock in massive deals

China and France yesterday signed two major agreements on aviation cooperation in Beijing during French Prime Minister Francois Fillon's visit to the nation.

Aerospace giant CFM International will build an assembly line in China to supply LEAP-X1C engines to the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China for the country's domestically made jumbo jetliners, the C919s.

The two countries signed 12 deals on bilateral ties after talks between Premier Wen Jiabao and Fillon at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The other deals covered cooperation in such areas as nuclear energy, culture and water resources.

Wen said both sides agreed to advance their partnership "on the basis of mutual respect and equality."

"Even though it is our first meeting in person, I feel like we are friends," Wen said to Fillon, who is on his first official visit to China since taking office.

Fillon pointed to former French President General Charles de Gaulle's recognition of the People's Republic of China more than four decades ago as evidence relations were close and enduring.

"Our two countries' partnership is unmatched," Fillon said in remarks translated from French.

The engines will be built by CFM International, a joint venture between Safran and United States conglomerate General Electric.

Safran Chief Executive Jean-Paul Herteman told French newspaper Les Echos yesterday that his company's share of the deal would be worth US$15 billion over 30 years.

"The cooperation plays an important role in accelerating China's research and development of jumbo jets," said Zhang Qingwei, chairman of CAC. We believe the advanced technology can enhance our competitiveness globally."

CFM also signed a memorandum of understanding with AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co, domestic engine supplier for C919s, to jointly set up an assembly line of LEAP-X1C engines and a ground engine-testing system for the Chinese jumbo jets.

LEAP-X1C is a next-generation engine that can save 16 percent in fuel consumption and cut 16 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Earlier yesterday, Vice Premier Li Keqiang and Fillon attended a ceremony in Beijing marking the official start of the construction of the Taishan nuclear power station in southern China's Guangdong Province, the biggest Sino-French joint venture on new energy to date.

According to China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co Ltd, the joint venture, Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co Ltd, has a registered capital of about 16.7 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion).

Electricite de France holds a 30 percent stake and CGNPC 70 percent.

The nuclear power station would play an important role in promoting the two nations' use of advanced nuclear technology and their bilateral relations, Li said at the ceremony.

Fillon said France hoped to advance cooperation with China in nuclear energy.

Under China's energy-development plan, nuclear power installed capacity will reach 40 million kilowatts by 2020 and generate 260 billion to 280 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, accounting for 4 percent to 6 percent of the country's total.


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