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Boeing, Airbus eye China market amid trade war fears

Reuters ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) — The world’s two largest planemakers signaled on Tuesday that they were keen to see an end to a bruising trade war between Washington and Beijing, as China opened its largest airshow with a display that showcased its aviation ambitions.

Boeing and Airbus made their comments on the opening day of the biennial Airshow China, being held in the coastal city of Zhuhai from Nov. 6-11, that is traditionally an event for Beijing to parade its growing aviation prowess.

China has become a key hunting ground for deals for foreign aviation firms thanks to surging travel demand, but the outlook has been complicated by Beijing’s desire to grow its own champions in industries ranging from aviation to semiconductors to robots.

Its ties with the United States have in particular been strained. President Donald Trump criticizes China for what he sees as intellectual property theft, entry barriers to U.S. business and a gaping trade deficit, while Beijing calls the complaints unreasonable. The two sides have resorted to tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth billions of dollars.

While U.S.-made aircraft, among America’s biggest exports to China, have so far escaped Beijing’s tariffs, analysts said they were still waiting to see what the trade war would spell for U.S. companies such as Boeing.

George Xu, the top China executive at Boeing’s biggest rival Airbus, said at a news conference that the European planemaker did not expect a sales windfall from the tensions.

“I am Chinese and we don’t like this kind of trade war,” he said. “Nobody will be the winner in this kind of trade war.”

Airbus had hoped to close a deal for 184 aircraft during a trip to China by French President Emmanuel Macron in January, but negotiations appear to have stalled, industry sources say.

In carefully worded comments, Boeing’s senior vice-president of Northeast Asia sales, Rick Anderson, said China was a rapidly growing aviation market and that he believed Washington and Beijing understood that.

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