As Chinese President Xi Jinping continues a state visit in France, a Former French Prime Minister is suggesting France and China should be working together through the Belt and Road Initiative.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin has maintained close ties with China following his tenure as French Prime Minister from 2002 to 2005.

An advocate of the Belt and Road Initiative, Raffarin suggests the Chinese program should be viewed as a tool not only for development, but for multilateral relations as well.

“Although this initiative is proposed by China, it’s actually favourable to international cooperation. To some extent, the Belt and Road can serve as a lab for countries to build a ‘new multilateralism.’ Many countries are willing to cooperate with each other, but they lack a proper framework. The Belt and Road Initiative provides a good framework for their cooperation,” says Raffarin.

The former French Prime Minister says there is a lot of room for cooperation between China and France through the Belt and Road framework.

“The basic focus of France-China cooperation is to launch specific projects. The two sides can promote cooperation projects in sectors such as infrastructure, economy, culture and finance. France and China are researching on some of their cooperation projects in a bid to ensure they’re of good quality. We are also choosing some of the projects to take part in our cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road. Those projects must be feasible and practical, and should cover both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road,” says Raffarin.

Currently 123 countries and 29 international organisations are on-board with the Belt and Road initiative.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin says while the Belt and Road is a useful tool to help bolster China’s ties with France, the initiative isn’t the only way to link the two nations.

“China and France can both make contributions to promote multilateralism in the 21st century. China has vowed to safeguard multilateralism in a number of international organisations including the UNESCO, the WTO and the United Nations. We appreciate that. We hope to work with China to jointly solve the disputes and tensions around the world through multilateralism,” says Raffarin.

Raffarin also suggests the close ties between China and France are helping bolster world stability.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France.

Bilateral trade between the two countries surpassed 60 billion U.S. dollars last year, a record high.