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China, France sign major business deals on Xi visit

PARIS -- Beijing and Paris signed scores of deals Wednesday worth 18 billion euros (US$25 billion) on the second day of a lavish state visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in what President Francois Hollande said would bring much-needed growth.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan have been given VIP treatment on a nostalgia-tinted trip to France marking the 50th year of full diplomatic ties between the two countries — a visit due to culminate with a concert at the Versailles chateau on Thursday.

The power couple kicked off their trip in the eastern city of Lyon on Tuesday, and a day later traveled up to Paris where Xi met with his counterpart Hollande and signed the deals.

“Eighteen billion euros of contracts — that is jobs, growth and, most of all, significant prospects for the coming years,” Hollande said during a joint press declaration with the Chinese president.

50 Agreements Signed

By far the biggest deal was a Chinese order for 70 Airbus planes worth more than US$10 billion.

The order covers the purchase of 43 mid-range A320 planes and 27 long-haul A330s, the European aviation giant said.

China had already announced its intention to purchase the planes but subsequently froze the order due to a row over EU plans to impose a carbon emissions levy on airlines.

This forced Airbus to take the 70 planes off its order book, so Wednesday's contract is considered a new purchase.

Airbus Helicopters and China's Avicopter also announced a deal to jointly produce 1,000 civilian helicopters over 20 years.

Altogether, the two countries signed 50 agreements in areas as varied as the nuclear, financial and automotive sectors.

France lags behind some European neighbors, especially Germany, in trade and investment links with fast-growing China.

Last year, France had a trade deficit with China worth 25.8 billion euros, and on Wednesday, Hollande told Xi that Paris had a “duty ... to re-balance trade between our two countries.”

His comments came as the number of jobless in France surged by 0.9 percent in February to a new record of 3.34 million, in what is likely to increase the deep unpopularity of Hollande's government.

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French President Francois Hollande, right, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of a signing ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Wednesday, March 26. (AP)

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