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China's Xi: Macron visit boosts multilateralism, free trade

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday hailed a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron as giving a boost to multilateralism and free trade, amid ongoing economic tensions with Washington.

Following a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, Xi said the two leaders had "sent a strong signal to the world about steadfastly upholding multilateralism and free trade, as well as working together to build open economies."

In his remarks, Macron said China and the European Union must "build a stable partnership on the big questions of the world in a world that is more and more destabilized." "Developing market access and partnerships between our companies is a priority," Macron said.

Macron started his three-day visit by announcing that the European Union had struck a deal with China to prevent counterfeiting of agricultural products like wine and cheese. Further agreements were signed on Wednesday.

The French leader's visit is timed to ease some of the tensions that are stifling global commerce, with the U.S. and China in a bitter fight over tariffs and the EU pressing China to make good on commitments to boost imports of agricultural products and manufactured goods while opening its market for financial products and other services.

Macron first visited the commercial hub of Shanghai, where he visited a sprawling import fair and presided at the ribbon cutting for a branch of Paris' famed Centre Pompidou modern art museum along the Chinese city's riverfront.

Designed by British architect David Chipperfield, the Pompidou Shanghai embodies China's aspirations to become a center of culture as well as business, although the ruling Communist Party strict demands for ideological purity have caused some to question whether it can succeed at such a quest.

The Pompidou will assemble items for exhibit at the Shanghai outpost from among its huge collections under a five-year contract.

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