Secretary of State Antony Blinken won’t participate in any talks with international leaders involving Boeing, a top U.S. exporter.
Blinken had advised the Chicago-based plane builder and defense giant before joining the Biden administration this year, according to his financial disclosure statement. He has recused himself from all Boeing-related matters, according to a State Department spokesperson, who asked not to be identified per agency policy.
Boeing has traditionally been one of the largest U.S. exporters by dollar value and has business interests in multiple regions that intersect with diplomacy, from weapons in the Middle East to aircraft in China, its largest overseas market.
The recent violence between Israelis and Palestinians has revived discussions about weapons sales in the region, which include Boeing military aircraft and other equipment.
China hasn’t followed the lead of the U.S. and Europe in lifting the grounding of the 737 MAX prompted by two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. The nation is critical to Boeing’s efforts to clear hundreds of undelivered jets from its inventory, and reverse its losses after burning through $20 billion in cash last year. But the nation’s carriers last ordered 737 MAX while former President Barack Obama was still in office.
Boeing has privately made its case on the MAX to leaders of the U.S. and China, while CEO Dave Calhoun publicly called on them to separate aircraft matters from broader disputes over intellectual property and human rights.
Since other senior officials at the State Department are free to discuss Boeing-related matters with nations, it’s unlikely the action will affect policy, said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant with the Teal Group.
“I can’t imagine a personnel change making a whole lot of difference,” Aboulafia said.
Boeing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Blinken’s recusal.
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