TIANJIN - A top official from European aircraft maker Airbus said on Friday it was negotiating with its Chinese counterparts to join China's jumbo jet manufacturing program, which was officially inaugurated in Shanghai on May 11.
"I'm sure we will expand our business in China, although some factors might make China our competitor," said Laurence Barron, Airbus China president, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Friday at the 18th Asian Corporate Conference of Asia Society.
"Not a single country could make a plane on its own. The generator, instruments and even the oil used by Airbus all come from different partners. China need such support."
China's first ever jumbo passenger aircraft company, named Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd.(CACC), will be responsible for researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing the homegrown large passenger aircraft.
The CACC has a registered capital of 19 billion yuan (US$ 2.7 billion). The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission alone invested 6 billion yuan, becoming the biggest shareholder.
CACC's goals within the first few years include finishing the delivery and maiden flight of the ARJ21 aircraft, establishing an operating system and training talent.
Barron thought China's road to producing jumbo jets was long and difficult. "It took Airbus 40 years to achieve its current status. China has a long way to go," he said.
"Just willingness and capital are not enough," he added.
A product competitive to Airbus and Boeing, a global marketing and business network are necessities for the Chinese jumbo jet business to "take off," he said.
For years, Airbus and Boeing have been competing to play a dominant role in China, one of the fastest growing aviation market in the world.
Airbus began selling planes in China in 1985. The Chinese mainland now has more than 300 Airbus planes. In the coming years, Airbus will deliver 370 more planes to China based on current orders. It plans to have a 50 percent share in the Chinese market by 2011.
China signed an agreement worth US$ 17.4 billion during French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Beijing in November. This involved the purchase of 160 planes from French company Airbus, according to Airbus China.
Airbus also has an assembly line in Tianjin, the first for Airbus outside Europe. The assembly of the first plane is expected to initiate in August. It planned to deliver 300 A320 planes from the assembly line by 2016 to satisfy China's demand.