Obama hopes for boost from Boeing-Indonesia jet deal

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - President Barack Obama welcomed on Friday a $21.7 billion jet deal his administration helped broker between Boeing and an Indonesian airline, calling it a “win-win” for U.S. workers and Asian consumers.

President Barack Obama speaks in front of a model of a Boeing 737 in Lion Air livery, as he attends a signing ceremony between officials at Boeing and Lion Air in Nusa Dua, Bali, November 18, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The agreement was announced by the White House near the end of Obama’s nine-day Pacific tour designed to emphasize trade opportunities in Asia he hopes will bolster the still-weak U.S. economy ahead of next year’s election.

“This is an example of how we are going to achieve the long-term goals I set of doubling our exports over the next several years,” Obama said after executives from Boeing and Lion Air, Indonesia’s largest private carrier, signed a commitment for the jet orders.

Their provisional agreement for the sale of 230 short-haul 737 jets, worth $21.7 billion at list prices, sets up the largest commercial order in Boeing’s history, toppling a previous record set just days ago as the industry taps into relentless demand in emerging economies.

It is also a boost for Boeing’s efforts to develop a revamped version of its best-selling 737 to compete with a model produced by its European rival Airbus.

The deal from Lion Air opens the door to orders for 29 Next-Generation 737-900 extended range planes and 201 of Boeing’s new 737 MAX, an updated version of its best-selling model.

The company said the 201 provisional orders for the 737 MAX were included in previously announced commitments for 700 of the planes, which are due to enter service in 2017 equipped with fuel-efficient engines.

Obama briefly struggled to get into the signing ceremony room because of a jammed door, telling his entourage “how embarrassing” once he managed to open it.

Once inside, he described the plane deal as a “win-win” situation for consumers in the region and U.S. workers and said his administration and the Ex-Im bank played a key role in facilitating the deal.

The Democrat is under intense pressure ahead of a re-election battle in 2012 to show progress in boosting the economy and bringing down the 9 percent U.S. unemployment rate.

During his nine-day Asia-Pacific tour that began in Hawaii, Obama has sought to emphasize an agenda of expanding trade ties with Asia, the world’s fastest growing region.

Boeing said the Lion Air order, when finalized, would be its largest ever “by both dollar volume and total number of airplanes.”

The plane maker said strong customer demand was driving its plans to raise production over the next three years.

“As a result of that increase, we will definitely be adding many more jobs,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder Jr. said, without giving a specific figure.

The White House said the agreement would support more than 110,000 jobs at Boeing and U.S. suppliers.

Previewing other deals to be announced on the sidelines of an East Asia Summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, the White House said Boeing reached a $2.4 billion deal for Singapore Airlines to buy eight 777-300ER aircraft.

General Electric Co will also announce a deal to sell 50 engines to Indonesia’s Garuda Airlines in an agreement worth $1.3 billion.

And in a $325 million deal presented as one of the largest defense procurements in Brunei’s history, United Technologies Corp unit Sikorsky will supply 12 Black Hawk helicopters to the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Support Helicopter Project.

Additional reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta and Tim Hepher in Dubai; Editing by Alex Richardson