Shanghai – Just ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to China, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed an airworthiness certification deal that effectively opens the door to Chinese sales of airplanes to the US and other countries.
The agreement boosts Beijing’s hopes of becoming a global supplier of commercial jetliners and of breaking open a market currently dominated by Boeing Co. and Airbus SE.
Mr. Trump arrived in Beijing bringing a tough message on the balance of Sino-US trade, which he has long argued is skewed unfairly against America.
In that context, the handing of a major trade prize to China in the lead-up to his visit underscored that cooperating with the Chinese authorities to retain access to the China’s huge aerospace market remains as much of a priority as extracting trade concessions.
China has longstanding strategic ambitions to build and export jetliners. The country’s first large commercial aircraft, the C919, developed by the state-run Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, conducted its maiden flight in May, and is expected to enter service around 2020. The company, known as Comac, already has 300 firm orders for the plane, almost all from Chinese buyers.
But most of the world’s airlines only buy jets that have been certified by credible agencies, notably the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency. Until now Chinese certification didn’t count for much outside China itself.
Now Chinese-built aircraft and aviation components can potentially be sold to US customers thanks to the “mutual recognition” enshrined in the new agreement, the CAAC said.
Airplanes certified by China won’t automatically be allowed to fly in US airspace, the FAA stressed: “These products are subject to a validation process… defined in the agreement,” which could still include a full technical review.