A chinese delegation is in Washington, D. C., to discuss a purchase of Boeing 7E7s, sources familiar with the talks said. The two sides are...

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A Chinese delegation is in Washington, D.C., to discuss a purchase of Boeing 7E7s, sources familiar with the talks said.

The two sides are close to reaching a deal, according to those sources, but the Chinese have brought up their strong opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as the central point of negotiations with U.S. officials.

Six Chinese airlines have expressed interest in ordering a combined total of 60 7E7s, according to Chinese aviation sources in Beijing. The potential buyers include China’s three largest airlines — China Southern, China Eastern and Air China.

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The airlines have finished negotiations with Boeing on the multibillion-dollar deal, and now the final approval required by China’s central government hinges on political questions, the sources said.

David Wang, the president of Boeing China, said he is confident about the prospects of the 7E7 in China but could not comment on any reports of meetings in Washington. A Boeing spokeswoman in Seattle said the company had no comment.

Boeing missed its goal of booking 200 7E7 orders by the end of last year, in part because the anticipated confirmation of an order from China did not come through.

The jet maker has announced a total of 126 7E7 orders from eight airlines, of which 56 orders are firm contracts.

Boeing and its European rival Airbus see the Chinese market as vital to their futures. Air traffic in China is growing at about 8 percent a year. To meet that demand, China plans to buy more than 2,000 jets over the next 20 years.

In China, Boeing has lost market share to Airbus, falling to about 65 percent of the nation’s commercial-airplane fleet. Airbus is getting ready to announce a sale to China of its newest plane, the A380, which it unveiled Jan. 18 in France. China Southern plans to buy five A380s, and other carriers may follow suit.

Air China, the nation’s largest international carrier, said yesterday it will buy 20 A330-200 planes from Airbus with a list price of $2.9 billion.

With plane orders tied to government relations, the United States and Europe are now on opposite sides of a political debate as well. The European Union is moving ahead with plans to lift its 15-year ban on military sales to China, a plan the Bush administration has criticized.

Meanwhile, Chinese leaders oppose U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and worry that the U.S. will offer more advanced offensive weapons to the island, which they consider part of China.

Tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan strait escalated last year amid calls for independence by some Taiwan lawmakers.

Material from Bloomberg News was included in this report.

Boeing mulls more outsourcing to China

DAVOS, Switzerland — Boeing is considering expanding the work it outsources to China, Boeing executive Thomas Pickering said yesterday.

Pickering, Boeing’s senior vice president of international relations, said the company might outsource some service and maintenance operations to China, adding to the work already done there to build stabilizers used in tail assemblies.

Any increase in outsourcing may be seen as a move to curry favor in the Asia-Pacific region, which is expected to be Boeing’s main sales driver in 2005 as in 2004.