PARIS, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Celebrating the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, France and China are expecting high-level visits and other important events this year, making 2019 a "good" and "productive" year for bilateral cooperation, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has told Xinhua.
In an exclusive interview ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to France, Raffarin said that besides the exchanges of high-level visits, the two countries will also host important events such as a cultural forum in Nice, the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, and the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.
Recalling his first trip to China in 1970, the veteran politician said, "I probably made more than a hundred trips to China. I am very interested in the Chinese culture and in the changes made in China. I saw China transform itself and has become an economic and industrial power."
Raffarin said that in recent years France and China have developed fruitful cooperation in various domains, including their shared commitment to the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate accord.
"The Paris Agreement would not have been possible without China and without good French-Chinese cooperation," he said.
Raffarin also spoke highly of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the CIIE, calling them new developments of China in the last few years.
He said the BRI, which pools the cooperative willingness of various countries to achieve common development, is especially important in the current world.
"It is better to have projects and construct roads and bridges, instead of building walls and closing oneself in," he said.
Raffarin said China has demonstrated itself to be a major importer by organizing the first CIIE. French firms, such as L'Oreal, Danone, and Schneider, took advantage of the fair to reinforce their presence in China.
Raffarin likened the important common consensuses in Franco-Chinese relations to three "concentric circles of cooperation."
The first circle is that they have similar world views, Raffarin said, adding that despite different social systems, the two countries could uphold multilateralism with mutual respect and share the view that only dialogue leads to peace.
To comply with the development of the times, improve the rules and framework of multilateralism and raise the voices of Asia and Africa in a multilateral system is the shared mission of both France and China, he said.
Economic and trade cooperation is the second circle, Raffarin said. "The Chinese market represents the engine of global growth. We need Chinese growth. What weakens Chinese growth weakens global growth."
French firms have been digging into the Chinese market and have continuously achieved success. Bilateral trade cooperation has been expanded into areas ranging from nuclear energy, aerospace and automaking to wine, luxury products and services.
According to China's official statistics, bilateral trade surpassed 100 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, hitting a record high.
Raffarin regards the common diplomatic concepts shared by the two nations as the third circle of cooperation.
In the new international circumstances, Raffarin said, France should continue to communicate and keep the friendly relations with China, and continuously promote the France-China comprehensive strategic partnership.
"We will not forget that in the debt crisis, it was China that bought the euro to protect the eurozone," he added.
"The friendship between France and China is a key factor for world stability. The world will become more peaceful and stable, as France and China talk more frequently to each other, and cooperate more closely," Raffarin said.