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Hollande clinches Airbus deals, dodges human rights on Vietnam visit

media French President François Hollande (L) and Vietnam's Tran Đại Quang in front of a bust of independence leader Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi on 6 September 2016 Reuters

Vietnamese airlines bought 40 jets worth six billion euros from France-based Airbus during as President François Hollande arrived in Hanoi for a 48-hour visit to the country.

Low-cost private airline VietJet bought 20 planes while national carrier Vietnam Airlines and budget airline Jetstar Pacific bought 10 each, Airbus Asia spokesman Sean Lee said.

Civil engineers Vinci also reached agreement to develop the country's motorway network in collaboration with the state-owned Vietnam Expressway Corporation.

Hollande, who was accompanied by 40 business leaders, was also hoping to sign a series of deals concerning renewable energy and health.

He is the third French president to visit the country since independence, following what Hollande called a "tumultuous history", from France.

France is keen to increase its exports to its former colony after years of trade imbalance, which increased from 2.4 billion euros to 2.6 billion euros last year, despite the fact that French exports grew 85 percent.

With 6.68 percent growth last year and 90 million consumers, Vietnam is attracting more and more foreign investors.

South China Sea and human rights

Hollande discussed freedom of movement in the South China Sea, where Vietnam is one of several countries in dispute with China over the ownership of islands, with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang on Tuesday.

Rights were not on the agenda, despite an open letter to Hollande from three NGOs concerned about "serious violations of human rights" in a country where dissidents and critical bloggers are often imprisoned.

On Tuesday and Wednesday Hollande was due to meet the leader of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, and National Assembly president Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and deliver a speech at the national university.

He was also set to visit the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City and meet French entrepreneurs, many involved in the burgeoning hi-tech sector, there.

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