March 7, 2019 / 6:32 PM / a year ago

Boeing jets could be part of broad U.S.-China trade deal: CEO

FILE PHOTO: Dennis Muilenburg, CEO, Boeing speaks during a roundtable discussion on defense issues with U.S. President Donald Trump at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, U.S., October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Purchases of U.S.-made Boeing Co aircraft by China could be part of a sweeping deal currently being negotiated to end the months-long trade war between Washington and Beijing, Boeing’s top executive said on Thursday.

A tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two largest economic powers has slowed the global economy. It has also opened up new risks for Boeing, which calls itself America’s biggest exporter, in the world’s fastest growing aviation market. Boeing sells roughly a third of its top-selling U.S.-made 737 jetliners to customers in China.

Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told an aviation summit in Washington that he sensed U.S.-China trade talks were progressing “in a good way.”

“They are dealing with some of the tough framework issues around intellectual property and things like that,” Muilenburg said. “I do think they are making progress. And at the same time, I think there’s an economic opportunity here for airplanes to be part of the ultimate deal and help further close the trade deficit gap.”

Governments typically use jet deals to achieve broader diplomatic objectives. In talks with Beijing, U.S. officials have demanded more details on China’s pledge to make big purchases of American goods, as well as to push for ways to hold China to any commitments on changes to industrial policies.

U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded that China shrink its widening trade surplus with the United States. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported the goods trade deficit with China rose 11.6 percent to an all-time high of $419.2 billion in 2018.

China is poised to overtake the United States as the world’s largest aviation market in the next decade and is gobbling up planes made by both Boeing and European rival Airbus SE, while also investing in homegrown aircraft businesses.

Boeing forecasts Chinese demand for 7,700 new airplanes over the next 20 years valued at $1.2 trillion.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown

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