French civil aviation industry set to gain from Macron's state visit to Beijing

Updated 2018-01-05 10:31:05

As French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to pay his first state visit to China next week, the French civil aviation industry has many reasons to be optimistic about its outlook in China for the coming years.

The three-day visit, which is scheduled to go ahead between Monday and Wednesday, is certain to see a slew of business deals signed between Chinese and French companies, which is customary during such high-level visits.

In particular, deals related to the civil aviation industry are likely to become a highlight among the many agreements expected to be inked, especially given France's technological strength in the industry and China's massive market for civil aviation production and services.

Promising signs

Some industry sources told the Global Times on Wednesday that at least two business deals between Chinese and French civil aviation companies are already in the making, and that they might have even been completed by now.

But what is certain is that those deals will be ready for signing by the start of Macron's visit to Beijing.

The sources declined to provide further details of those deals, including the parties involved and the amount of money involved.

In the lead up to the visit, civil aviation has already been listed as an area of cooperation for the two countries going forward.

Both sides will also explore partnerships in new sectors such as civil aviation and e-commerce as well as new cooperation on climate and finance, states an official document released after the 5th High-Level Economic and Financial Dialogue, which was held in Beijing from November 30 to December 2, 2017.

Recent positive tones from French officials toward China also point to a strengthened bilateral relationship between the two countries and no doubt bode well for potential trade and economic cooperation.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that France is trying to build a trade "backbone" from Europe to Beijing through Moscow, as his country copes with uncertain trade relations with the UK, after its decision to leave the EU, and with the U.S., under President Donald Trump and his "America First" agenda.

State visits to China are usually dominated by business deals. Trump's visit to Beijing in November, for example, saw the signing of business deals worth 3.5 billion, and there is no reason to believe that Macron's visit would be much different.

Given the fact that French aviation companies hold a strong position in the Chinese market, which is massive and still has huge potential, it is highly likely that there will be some game-changing deals signed related to the civil aviation sector.

L'hexagone's Chinese dream

French aviation companies, including Toulouse-based Airbus Group, Velizy-Villacoublay-based Dassault Systemes and La Defense-based Thales Group, have already been making huge marks in the Chinese market.

Airbus has been selling more and more airplanes to Chinese carriers in recent years and has been investing heavily in local production capacities.

By the end of 2017, in China, there were more than 1,500 Airbus commercial jetliners in service and more than 1,900 Airbus employees, the company said on its website.

Airbus aims to have introduced a total of 2,000 jetliners to the Chinese market by 2020 and lift its market share above 50 percent. In preparation of those goals, the company inaugurated a 0 million completion center for the manufacturing of its wide-body jet A330 in Tianjin in September 2017 - the first of its kind to operate overseas.

Dassault Systemes, the French advanced software and solutions provider, said it has been a major supplier of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China when it comes to its production of China's first big commercial jetliner, the C919.

"We have participated in the whole birth process of the C919," the company said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that it has provided software for design, assembly and other procedures.

French air traffic management (ATM) solutions provider Thales also said that it is committed to the Chinese market after 30 years in the country.

"To support the continued rapid growth of air traffic in China, Thales will continue to deliver innovative technologies that assist the [ATM bureau] to address today's and future challenges," Jean Marc Alias, vice president of ATM business at Thales, said in a statement the company sent to the Global Times on Wednesday.

Thales already has 1,300 employees at its four plants as well as three joint ventures and strategic partnerships in the Chinese market, according to a separate statement from the company.

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