PARIS - FRANCE and China signed major industrial deals worth US$20 billion (S$25.6 billion) on Thursday at the start of a lavish state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, cementing previously strained ties.

Mr Hu also threw China's weight behind Mr Sarkozy's goal of using France's upcoming presidency of the G-20 group of economic powers to reform the global financial system, the French leader's other big priority for the visit.

The contract signings kicked off a three-day visit by Mr Hu that France hopes will result in a massive boost to its high-tech manufacturing exports.

China's deputy foreign minister Fu Ying revealed the scale of the deals to reporters after talks between the presidents and a signing ceremony at the Elysee Palace, where a state dinner was laid on.

'The visit is going very well. We have had some great successes,' Ms Fu told reporters. 'The Chinese delegation is totally satisfied and has high hopes for future discussions.' The two leaders meanwhile showed a united front ahead of the Sarkozy's G-20 presidency, through which he wants to push major international reforms.

'China supports France in its efforts to ensure the success of the G-20 summit next year,' Mr Hu said in his toast to Mr Sarkozy at their state dinner.

Mr Sarkozy said in his own toast: 'I know I can count on China's backing to make progress on three big projects that are essential to keep the world running properly.'

China, France sign big deals