Boeing opened its first 737 completion plant in China on Saturday, a strategic investment aimed at building a sales lead over arch-rival Airbus in one of the world’s top travel markets, Reuters reports.
The US planemaker also delivered the first of its top-selling 737s completed at the facility in Zhoushan to state carrier Air China at a ceremony that was attended by top executives from both companies, the report said.
The executives, alongside representatives from China’s state planner and aviation regulator, unveiled the plane at an event attended by hundreds of people.
Boeing and Airbus have been expanding their footprint in China as they vie for orders in the fast-growing aviation market, which is expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest in the next decade.
Boeing invested US$33 million last year to take a majority stake in a joint venture with state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) to build the completion center, which installs interiors and paints liveries.
The plant’s inaugural ceremony was overshadowed by tensions between the US and China as they engage in a bruising tit-for-tat tariff war. The world’s two largest economies are in a 90-day detente to negotiate a trade deal.
“Am I nervous about the situation? Yeah, of course. It’s a challenging environment,” John Bruns, President of Boeing China, told reporters on a conference call earlier on Saturday.
“We have to keep our eye on the long game in China. Long term, I’m optimistic we will work our way through this,” he said.
Bruns said he remains optimistic about the outcome of trade talks between the United States and China and described aviation as a “bright spot” amid tensions between the two countries.
Asked about the possibility of technology transfer agreements between Boeing and COMAC, Bruns stressed that the purpose of the plant was for installing seats, painting vehicles, and completing the planes’ final delivery.
“That’s only a part of what we do in the production of airplanes,” he said.
Boeing said it aims eventually to hit a delivery target of 100 planes a year at Zhoushan, but gave no timeframe as to when the company expects to reach that level.
The company has no plans to expand work to other aircraft types.
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