Airbus eyes big orders during Merkel visit to China

BERLIN (Reuters) - Airbus hopes to win orders to sell up to 100 A320 planes to China when German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the country this week, industry sources said on Monday.

The order, potentially worth around $9 billion, would be the first significant Airbus deal with China since a row between Beijing and the European Union over emissions trading interrupted earlier deals worth up to $14 billion.

However, such an order would not by itself signal an end to the dispute.

“There is already a framework agreement for utilisation of the existing assembly line in the Chinese city of Tianjin which must now be supported with concrete orders,” an industry source told Reuters.

Merkel heads to China on Wednesday accompanied by a large business delegation including Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus' parent company EADS EAD.PA.

During the trip she is due to visit the plant at Tianjin with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, a native of the city.

Small Airbus aircraft, partially built in China for the world’s fastest growing aviation market, have been spared any fallout from the emissions row since hitting those deliveries would not be in Beijing’s interests as domestic travel expands.

China continues to block the purchase of some 35 larger A330 aircraft to protest against the EU’s plans to enforce a carbon reduction scheme that opposing nations deem unfair.

China has continued to take delivery of workhorse Airbus A320 short-haul jets, some of which are assembled on its soil, even while the dispute hampers larger jets.

Beijing regularly buys small models like the Airbus A320 family and competing Boeing 737 in three-figure batches coinciding with European or U.S. state visits.

Merkel’s visit to China, her second this year, aims to further strengthen booming trade ties between the world’s two biggest exporting nations.

Premier Wen, who is due to stand down soon as part of China’s transfer of power to a younger generation of leaders, visited the annual trade fair in the German city of Hanover earlier this year.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke, writing by Gareth Jones