French President Emmanuel Macron has called for European countries to work together on a big data policy in order to compete with China and the U.S.

Speaking in China on a trade mission in the country, Macron argued that developing better big data strategies in France and across the continent should be a priority.

This strategy would involve cooperation across Europe, which would allow big data companies to access a pan-European market, which would be closer in size to American or Chinese markets. The single largest population in Europe is 82 million in Germany, compared to 323 million in the U.S. and nearly 1.4 billion in China.

There are a huge number of applications of big data strategies, and many businesses are increasingly aware of the importance of making good use of the data they collect in order to make better business decisions, save costs, and find new custom. Advanced data techniques are also fundamental to emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

In order to excel in these areas, the French President argued, a European integrated market needs to be developed. This would include strongly defined protection over personal rights as well as clarification over what companies can legitimately do with data.

“To advance sufficiently and be competitive with the American and Chinese players, we need a true, integrated market,” he said. He also made comments on the necessity of creating a reciprocal relationship between Europe and China, with trade going in both directions.

His remarks come as Apple announced the date on which it would pass over its Chinese customers’ data into the hands of a state-owned data centre operator. The legal requirements around data in China, and its reputation for extreme surveillance of its citizens is often a barrier to trade.

Macron also argued that though European big data companies need to develop, they are still strong, saying that France is not in “the Dark Ages” in this respect. Known to be strongly pro-business, the President has previously spoken of his desire to see more unicorns develop in France.