According to government and industry sources, European planemaker Airbus is negotiating a fresh wave of jet orders with China, which will coincide with French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the economic giant later this week.
The prospective contract for dozens of planes comes amid deteriorating ties between Washington and Beijing, with China’s normally balanced airplane imports shifting toward Airbus in recent years.
“Negotiations are under way,” an official in Macron’s office said, adding that any agreements by French firms would not merely consist of repackaging earlier announcements.
An industry source cautioned there were several moving parts in the talks, with details not yet finalized.
Macron is due to conduct the state visit to China on April 5-7, with a delegation of company chiefs from France-based companies, expected to include Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
Airbus declined to comment on any airplane negotiations or the agenda of senior management.
Shares in the planemaker outperformed, rising almost 2%.
Diplomats say high-level visits by European or the U.S. leaders frequently generate aircraft purchase deals that serve as a barometer of diplomatic ties, although announcements also tend to be scrutinized for their additional economic impact.
In July last year, China’s “Big Three” state airlines pledged to buy a total of 292 Airbus jets in the biggest order by Chinese carriers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November, China’s state buying agency said it had signed a deal for 140 Airbus jets during a visit by Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz, but the planemaker said the announcement covered deals already on its books, including part of the July deal.