China and France yesterday signed a seven-year trade agreement that calls for almost $14 billion in trade between the two countries, including the sale of two Frenchbuilt nuclear power plants to China.
The agreement was signed in Peking by French Foreign Trade Minister Jean Francois Deniau and Chinese Foreign Trade Minister Li Chiang in the presence of China's Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping. Teng told French reporters that China would buy two nuclear power stations worth an estimated $4.5 billion from France.
The Paris newspaper Le Monde said that France is likely to supply the enriched uranium for the two nuclear plants, which are said to be identical, with both generating 900,000 kilowatts of electricity each. There was no hint from Peking where the plants would be located or when construction would start.
In return for the two nuclear plants, their fuel and other technological trade, China apparently won guarantees from France of export credits worth over $6.8 billion over the next 10 years. Le Monde said the credit agreement bears an annual interest rate "close to the 6.5 percent accorded by Japan to China."
China and Japan signed a treaty of peace and friendship in August. This followed a stepped-up period of trade between the two Asian giants that reached $2.18 billion for the first six months of 1978.
Le Monde also said that Trade Minister Li Chiang expressed China's willingness to give "preference" to French firms in 11 major Chinese projects if French terms and technology are comparable to those submitted by other bidders for the business.
Outlined in a letter that accompanied the trade agreement, these 11 projects include expansion of a steel complex, a hydroelectric plant, a plant to produce magnesium metal, equipment to produce steel pipe and two coal-fired power plants that would generate 600,000 kilowatts of electricity each.
The official New China News Agency reported that the "agreement stipulates that extensive cooperation and exchanges be conducted in the spheres of agriculture, animal husbandry, energy resources, mining, iron and steel, aviation, space technology and machine building."
The news agency quoted Teng as saying the agreement "is a good beginning of cooperation between the two countries."
Negotiations have been going on between China and France over the sale of the two nuclear plants since last spring, when the United States was informed that China was seeking nuclear technology from the French firm Framatome.
Framatome licenses nuclear technology from Westinghouse Electric Corp. France must get U.S. approval to export the technology it licenses from Westinghouse. The Carter administration has told France that it will grant export permission if France can get China to agree not to extract plutonium from the plants' spent fuel to use in nuclear weapons.
The signing of the agreement in Peking yesterday is the first clear signal that France and China are close to reaching an agreement over the use of spent fuel and the plutonium locked inside the spent fuel.
At a farewell banquet in Peking, French Trade Minister Deniau emphasized the "political determination of both sides in reaching the agreement," which he called "fundamental in the interest of our two countries and for world balance."
In response, Chinese Deputy Premier Ku Mu spoke of Peking's support for the formation of a "European union against hegemonism" -- a term China uses to mean Soviet domination. Ku also urged that goals set forth by the two countries in the agreement be surpassed.
In an editorial published yesterday to coincide with China's signing of its first major trade pact with the West, the official People's Daily spoke up in favor of major trade expansion with the West.
The newspaper called for departure from the "ideological dungeon" in which China had locked itself and said the country must rid itself of the "psychology of small production," which it described as "incompatible with large-scale international trade." The newspaper concluded: "Everyone must be concerned with exports."