Airbus to launch second assembly line at China factory as part of trade and tech deals between Beijing and Paris

  • The decision, announced on sidelines of meeting between Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron, will double production capacity at the company’s Tianjin plant
  • Xi says countries will deepen cooperation in aviation, aerospace and nuclear power while fostering growth in green energy

European plane manufacturer Airbus announced on Thursday it would open a second assembly line in its China factory as part of agreements between Beijing and Paris to deepen trade and tech cooperation.

The decision was announced on the sidelines of the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Beijing. The deal would double the production capacity of its plant in Tianjin, a port city in northern China, potentially allowing the company to secure a bigger market share against American rival Boeing.

“It makes a lot of sense for us, as the Chinese market keeps growing, to be serving local for the Chinese airlines, and probably some other customers in the region,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said.

Beijing played up the prospects of bilateral economic cooperation.

“Both sides will deepen cooperation in aviation, aerospace and civilian nuclear power, which are our traditional areas of cooperation. We will cultivate new cooperation and new growth pillars in green development and innovation, including jointly setting up a centre for carbon neutralisation and talent training,” Xi said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Xi said China would further open up to share the opportunities of China’s development with other countries.

He also said China would increase imports of French agricultural products and called on both countries to offer a “fair, just and non-discriminatory” business climate for each other’s companies.

Foreign business communities have called on Beijing to ease market access and address operational concerns.

he Chinese plane, with imported key components, received domestic certification last year and is expected to begin commercial operation early this year.

Airbus’ China factory, which focuses on the assembly of the A320 and also produces the A321neo, opened in Tianjin in 2008. More than 600 planes have been delivered from the factory since then, according to the Airbus website.

In a statement from Airbus, Faury said the expansion underpinned prospects for the Chinese aviation market and “the desire to grow sustainably”.

“Airbus values its partnership with the Chinese aviation stakeholders and we feel privileged to remain a partner of choice in shaping the future of civil aviation in China,” he said.

Airbus said that by the end of the first quarter of this year, its aircraft accounted for more than 2,100 of those in service in China, or more than half of the market.

Beijing has often used aircraft purchases to balance bilateral trade.

Boeing’s sales in China tumbled after 2018, when the US trade war began. Sales also fell following two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which forced Chinese regulators to ground Boeing’s 737 MAX planes for almost four years.