France welcomes Chinese investment, not 'looting': minister

FILE PHOTO: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire leaves the Elysee Palace after the first weekly cabinet meeting of the year and a government seminar in Paris, France, January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

BEIJING (Reuters) - France welcomes long-term investments from China, but only after screening deals to ensure French assets are not “looted”, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday in Beijing.

In China on a three-day state visit, French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for a more balanced trade relationship, hoping in particular to reduce France’s 30 billion euro ($35.8 billion) trade shortfall with the country.

Le Maire said more balance would mean better access to Chinese markets while protecting French technologies and setting limits on Chinese investments in France.

Asked if his ministry would from now on screen Chinese investments, Le Maire said: “Yes, and I reject many.”

He added that he would announce plans on Jan. 15 to boost a 2014 decree requiring foreign companies to get permission from the French state before taking control of French firms in the energy, telecoms, transport, water and the health sectors

“We accept long-term investments but not looting,” he added.

Reporting by Michel Rose; writing by Leigh Thomas