Richard North, 05/12/2005  

Reuters today reports that Airbus Industries is close to winning an order of up to 150 A320 passenger jets, in what, it says, “would be a boost for European industry during a visit to France by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.”

We are told that sources close to the talks said the deal would include 100 or more A320-family jets and could reach 150. The deal had initially seemed likely to be for at least 70 aircraft but talks continued after Wen arrived in France on Sunday. "We heard the negotiations are still ongoing. We heard it could be as much as 150," a Chinese airline executive said.

Crucially, the Reuters report states that French media commentators see it as a reward for improved political ties with France, which is campaigning with Germany for the European Union to drop an embargo on arms sales to China. Wen has thanked both countries for their support on the embargo, after France on Friday called the embargo an "anachronism".

France is hoping for a cluster of Chinese deals this week, including business with Eurocopter, the world's largest civilian helicopter maker, and Alcatel Alenia Space. One wonders if they are also looking for a contract for these.


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