Trade in dairy products between France and China will mark a "new relay of growth and cooperation between the two countries," China's ambassador to France told CGTN.
"China has a large population, 1.4 billion, so we have a need for industrial and agricultural products. And France is our traditional partner. We already have cooperation in the industrial field," Lu Shaye said.
For generations, few people in China had taken dairy a main part of their diets. In fact, many adults didn't even know how milk and cheese taste.
But things have changed significantly and quickly in the past few decades. The demand for dairy products and their consumption have risen steeply and steadily in China since the 1990s, to the point that market analysts now estimate the country will be the world's largest consumer of such products in 2022.
China has also become a major milk producer, and its population's ever-increasing demand for milk has made the country the world's largest importer of dairy products. Its largest milk and dairy product suppliers are the European Union, followed by New Zealand.
"Today, with the improvement of people's quality of life in China and the increase of Chinese consumers' needs, we have to open new fields of cooperation," Lu added.
One of China's key partners in this trade in Europe is France, a country which has traditionally cherished its dairy production.
The trade between the two countries is as beneficial to Chinese consumers as it is to French farmers, who can count on the expanding dairy market in China to support their businesses and increase their sales. Dairy margins in Europe have been squeezed in recent decades as supermarkets have flexed their buying power and many consumers have switched to non-dairy alternatives.
"China-France relations are still very good compared to the relations between China and other Western countries," said the Chinese ambassador.
"And we wish that France plays a leading role in the development of the relations between China and the Western world. Because mutual respect and win-win cooperation decides the future of mankind and we are sure that, with the Sino-French cooperation, we can help a lot the relations between China and the Western world."
China is looking at the agricultural industry as a field where the country can build stronger trade relations with France, the ambassador said, in that same sector where imports were "relatively lagging."
"I think we have to redouble our efforts," Lu said about imports from France's agricultural sector, adding that the Chinese embassy will also offer help to promote such exports.