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Airbus mulls plane assembly in China
By Xing Zhigang and Lu Haoting (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-05 05:28

China is likely to become only the third country assembling Airbus aircraft after France and Germany, according to an agreement signed yesterday during Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to France.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was inked between the National Development and Reform Commission and Airbus at the southwestern French city of Toulouse, headquarters of the European plane consortium.

Premier Wen arrived at Toulouse yesterday afternoon at the start of a four-day visit to France that is expected to be dominated by trade issues.

A highlight of the MOU, aimed at strengthening industrial co-operation between China and the aircraft giant, is to study the possibility of establishing an assembly line for Airbus single-aisle aircraft in China.

"We are very pleased to enter into discussions about possible next steps of co-operation with our Chinese industrial partners who, over the years, have developed real industrial competence on which we can now draw," Gustav Humbert, Airbus president and chief executive officer, said at the signing ceremony.

Currently, five affiliates of China Aviation Industry Corp I (AVIC I) and AVIC II are involved in producing parts for Airbus aircraft.

Airbus Deutschland GmbH, based in Germany's Hamburg, develops and manufactures about one-third of Airbus aircraft and is responsible for final assembly of the A320 family single-aisle models.

Other Airbus aircraft are assembled in France.

Wen yesterday toured an assembly plant of the A380 superjumbo, the world's largest passenger jet which can accommodate as many as 800 people in an economy-class configuration.

China has ordered five A380 in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The premier is scheduled to hold talks with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in Paris today to cement the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Industrial sources hinted that Wen would sign a major order for medium-range A320 planes today in Paris.

France is the first stop of Wen's four-nation European tour till December 10, which will also take him to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Portugal.

He will then fly to Malaysia to attend the ninth summit between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ninth ASEAN plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Summit and the first East Asia Summit in mid-December.

Trilateral summit postponed

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that the trilateral summit meeting of China, Japan and the ROK, that has been held annually for the past six years at the ASEAN-plus-three summit, "will be put off to an appropriate time."

The statement posted on the ministry's website attributed the postponement to the "current atmosphere and conditions," apparently referring to frosty ties between Japan and its two neighbours due to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's latest visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Koizumi paid an annual pilgrimage to the shrine, which honours convicted Class-A World War II criminals, in October for the fifth time since he took office in April 2001.

"During this period, China will continue to perform its duty as the co-ordinating nation of the three parties," the ministry said.

"We hope co-operation among the three parties will steadily develop after obstacles are removed," the ministry added.

(China Daily 12/05/2005 page1)

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