France signs deals with China

Frederick Owens
January 13, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to maintain order volumes and parity between Airbus SE and rival Boeing Co., Mr. Macron told a news conference Wednesday.

Both leaders met at the Great Hall of the People during the French President's first official visit to China and discussed bilateral, European and worldwide cooperation, Efe news reported.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier, who led the company's delegation, had earlier focused on the industrial relationship with China, saying Tuesday that A320 build rates at a plant in Tianjin, east of Beijing, will accelerate to six planes a month by 2020 from four now.

"That's why France is in favour of defining strategic sectors where we want to protect investments..."

While he pressed France's concerns about its trade deficit with China, Macron came away with the last minute announcement of a Chinese commitment to buy 184 single-aisle A320 planes from European aviation giant Airbus. On Tuesday, the second day of his visit, Macron said the two nations should "settle on an economic and geopolitical plan for the affairs of our world".

Both leaders believe the China-France relations extend far beyond the bilateral scope and will have global significance. During the visit of the French Head of State, several large deals were signed, the value of which was also not publicly announced.

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China has also moved away from the hub-and-spoke model for which the A380 was designed, choosing instead to connect regional airports directly with foreign cities, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president at Teal Group Corp., an aerospace consultancy.

He also said Beijing is for coordinating with France on major worldwide issues in the hope of promoting world stability and prosperity. New jet orders have historically featured during such tours by French leaders.

In a keynote speech on Monday, Macron urged the European Union to participate in Xi's cherished US$1 trillion Silk Road trade infrastructure project despite misgivings, though he warned that the initiative should not create a "new hegemony".

Now the United States holds the title for the biggest aviation market in the world but China is expected to steal the crown by 2022, leaving Airbus and its rivals battling for business in the Asian nation.

The French president's visit was nevertheless marked with some contracts.

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