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November 1, 2016

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Xi says UK nuclear success is crucial

PRESIDENT Xi Jinping said yesterday China and France should properly implement the Hinkley Point C nuclear project in Britain, the first new UK nuclear power plant for two decades.

Xi made the remarks when meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Chinese and French companies signed the agreement to build an 18 billion pound (US$21.9 billion) nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C during Xi’s state visit to Britain in October last year. The CGN-led Chinese consortium and French company EDF respectively take 33.5 percent and 66.5 percent stakes.

The Hinkley Point project finally got the go-ahead after Britain’s new prime minister Theresa May delayed the deal because of national security concerns.

As part of the agreement, EDF will help CGN to gain a license to build its own nuclear reactor, Hualong, in Britain, whose nuclear regulatory regime is seen as one of the most stringent in the world.

China is keen to establish itself as an exporter of nuclear expertise so successfully building a plant in the UK would open the door to other markets.

“Both sides should properly implement the Hinkley Point C nuclear project and other major projects, and expand cooperation in trade, investment and finance to deeply integrate our interests,” Xi said.

He urged more people-to-people exchanges as well as cooperation at the local level and in international affairs.

China and France should work to promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the outcome of the G20 Hangzhou summit last September, Xi said. He added that China had always viewed its relations with the European Union from a strategic perspective and firmly supported Europe’s integration process.

China hoped France will continue to back and facilitate the synergy of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and Europe’s development strategy, the president said.

Ayrault said France supported the Belt and Road Initiative and was willing to strengthen trade and investment ties with China. He said France looked to properly implement the Hinkley Point C nuclear project, as well as explore partnership with China in medicine, health, sustainable development, urban construction, education and film.

The French minister expressed a desire to enhance cooperation with China in the United Nations Security Council, believing that the EU should continue to be a reliable partner for China.

France and China would set up a fund for joint investment in overseas projects, he said yesterday. “Hinkley Point is a very good example of what we’re going to do together, to win contracts in third markets and in all sectors.”

The project to build the UK nuclear power plant station was “a model that we support everywhere, including in Africa and Asia,” he said.

The new joint fund would be set up soon, he said, without giving further details.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China welcomed foreign companies’ investment in China and defended his country’s investment environment. “If you look at the speed and the extent to which China has opened up compared to other developing countries, it’s one of the leaders, and may even be faster than some developed countries.

“Of course, we are aware that China’s investment environment needs to improve,” Wang added. What I want to emphasise is China will become more and more open and our investment environment will become better and better.”

China and France also signed a social insurance agreement yesterday that will exempt company employees assigned to work in each other’s countries from the mandatory social insurance contributions.


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