Paris can take on London as China business hub: French minister

Paris can take on London as China business hub: French minister

BEIJING - Paris could challenge London as a Chinese business hub, France's finance minister told AFP Tuesday, adding that upcoming deals would increase Chinese currency use in the French capital.

Beijing has expressed interest in internationalising the renminbi - also known as the yuan - whose convertibility is currently controlled, and the British capital already represents 60 per cent of renminbi trade outside mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"Some agreements will be announced very soon," Pierre Moscovici said during an official visit to Beijing. "Things are in the pipeline."

In meetings with Chinese officials he said he "insisted that French financial institutions enjoy the same access to contracts and agreements that some other European financial institutes already enjoy".

The UK and China signed a deal last month allowing direct investment in renminbi by financial institutes based in London, where bonds may already be issued in yuan.

About a fifth of transactions between China and France were already denominated in Chinese yuan, Moscovici said, adding that "France is already very well placed".

He also touted African links and eurozone membership as strengths over the UK in the growing competition for investment from the Asian giant.

"France can help open up opportunities in Africa, a continent where China and France both have interests... which can be somewhat complementary," he said.

He called for boosting business in industries from nuclear energy and aviation to health and agribusiness.

"There are no obstacles, no barriers," he said, though he added that "there could be cases where, for reasons of strategic interest, we will hesitate".

Paris has long urged Beijing to increase its investments in their country.

China accounts for just four per cent of foreign investments into France, compared to 16 per cent in Germany and 23 per cent in the United States.

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