BEIJING: China signed a contract to buy 100 A320 aircraft from European manufacturer Airbus on Thursday, a spokesman for the firm told Agence France-Presse, worth $9.7 billion at list prices.
The deal was signed as German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
The European Union is China’s biggest trading partner and Merkel’s trip comes as European leaders jockey for trade and investment deals with the world’s second largest economy.
Airbus—which has an assembly facility in the northern Chinese port of Tianjin—is engaged in a fierce struggle with Boeing of the US for dominance in the crucial Chinese market.
Thursday’s agreement also included the confirmation of 30 options for twin-aisle A330s, which were among a 75-plane deal announced in June ahead of a visit by Li to Airbus headquarters in the French city of Toulouse, the company spokesman told Agence France-Presse.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US last month, Seattle-based Boeing announced a record purchase of 300 aircraft worth around $38 billion.
China is expected to add 6,330 new aircraft worth $950 billion to its commercial fleet by 2034, Boeing said in August in its annual China Current Market Outlook.
Several major EU countries including Germany, Britain and France are seeking to become hubs for overseas trade of China’s yuan currency, and signed up to Beijing’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank despite US opposition.
Merkel’s trip comes between a high profile visit to Britain by China’s President Xi Jinping earlier this month, when he stayed at Buckingham Palace in London, and ahead of a trip to China by French President Francois Hollande next week.
Merkel said she was “very happy” to know that Xi had paid such a fruitful visit to Britain, stating: “We welcome competition that is conducive to the promotion of business.”
“In Germany, we don’t have a Queen,” she added, to laughter.