France PM touts nuclear expertise in energy-hungry China

BEIJING - French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault touted his country's nuclear expertise Friday on the second day of his visit to China -- the world's largest market for atomic power stations.

Speaking in Beijing on the 30th anniversary of French-Chinese cooperation in the field, Ayrault said he would visit a vast project in the southern city of Taishan on Sunday where the two countries are building two next-generation European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs).

"It is in Taishan that our cooperation in nuclear power is reaching new heights," he said.

The work was progressing "at a steady pace", he said, adding that he "hoped" it would pave the way for a deal for another two reactors.

France and China are negotiating the issue ahead of a visit to Paris next spring by President Xi Jinping to mark the 60th year of diplomatic relations between them.

In a meeting with his counterpart Li Keqiang on Friday, Ayrault said France aimed to host 50,000 Chinese students by 2015 and pledged to streamline the visa process.

He also pushed for more French exports in areas such as healthcare and agribusiness in an effort to better balance trade ties.

France's trade deficit with China reached 27 billion euros ($37 billion) last year, according to the French economy minister.