China agreed to buy 60 Airbus planes in a memorandum of understanding signed Thursday by French President Francois Hollande and Chinese President Xi Jinping in front of reporters.
A significant portion of the planes would be manufactured in China at an Airbus factory in Tianjin, 150 kilometres (93 miles) from the capital, an industry source told AFP on condition on anonymity.
The signing ceremony took place in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Hollande's first day of a two-day visit to China aimed at boosting trade. He arrived earlier with a planeload of business people.
"Today there is a trade imbalance and it behooves us to fix it, not to reduce our investments and our exports but to increase them," he said while exchanging greetings with Xi before reporters.
"This is what we will discuss during our meetings."
Xi told Hollande: "You are working actively to promote growth and increase competitiveness.
"I look forward to the future of our global strategic partnership and look forward to working with you to make our bilateral relationship closer, healthier and more vibrant."
France accounts for just 1.3 percent of China's foreign trade compared with around five percent for Germany, and a trade deficit with China of 26 billion euros ($34 billion) last year is seen in Paris as unsustainable.
Hollande is the first Western leader to be received in the capital by China's new president.