France To Sell China Nuclear Material, Technology

Angela Doland
Associated Press

PARIS — France announced euro16 billion ($22.8 billion) in deals Thursday to sell uranium, technology and more than 100 Airbus planes to China, and the two countries also agreed to a sweeping strategic partnership on nuclear power.

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s three-day state visit to France opened with a red carpet welcome, Chinese flags flying on the streets of Paris and dinner at the Elysee Palace – as well as a flurry of deals that made clear how much the countries’ ties have improved.

It was a turnaround from the tense relations of two years ago, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics out of anger about China’s treatment of Tibet.

That stance brought fears that France could lose big business in China, and Sarkozy’s tone has changed. To the distress of human rights groups, Sarkozy’s advisers say he is avoiding confrontation and going for convergence.

Sarkozy said the two countries decided on “strategic cooperation without limits” on nuclear energy, from constructing plants to recycling fuel.

The deal expands on 30 years of nuclear cooperation between China and France, which gets about three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power and has deep knowledge of the field.

Sarkozy and Hu looked on as business leaders signed contract after contract. The Airbus deal alone – which will see airlines including Air China, China Eastern and China Southern buy 102 of the European consortium’s A320, A330 and A350 models – is worth around $14 billion.

France’s Areva nuclear engineering firm said it would sell China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp. 20,000 tons of uranium over a decade. The contract is worth around $3.5 billion dollars.

Cooperation is cultural as well: Paris’ Louvre Museum and Beijing’s Forbidden City agreed to work together on temporary exhibits and to share conservation and restoration techniques.

References to human rights have been subtle during the visit.

In a toast at a dinner table covered with gold ornaments and Champagne glasses, Sarkozy praised China’s staggering recent development, adding: “The world is confidently waiting for (China) to take on all the responsibilities that accompany its rediscovered power.”

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