Boeing CEO Warns of Lost Sales From U.S-China Trade Impasse

Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun warned that an extended impasse between the U.S. and China over long-simmering trade issues will have competitive consequences for the largest American exporter.

“We can’t afford to be locked out of that market. Our competitor will jump right in,” Calhoun said of European rival Airbus SE during an aviation summit hosted Wednesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Nothing good comes from restricted trade.”

China is one of the last regulators of consequence that still hasn’t cleared Boeing’s 737 Max jetliners to resume flying after two fatal crashes that prompted a global grounding. China Eastern, a state-owned airline, revealed Wednesday that it is negotiating with Boeing for a potential Max order but cautioned of “great uncertainty” as to when deliveries would be allowed to resume.

Read more: Air China slows wide-body orders amid Covid upheaval

Boeing didn’t notch any orders from China for the Max, a critical source of revenue, while former President Donald Trump was in office, according to data posted on the company’s website. The Chicago-based planemaker sold two 777 freighters to China Cargo last year, breaking a sales drought that extended to late 2017.

Calhoun praised the Biden administration for making progress with the European Union to end aircraft tariffs, while acknowledging the complex disagreements China will be far tougher to untangle.

“I hope we can separate intellectual property and rights from trade, and continue to encourage a free-trade environment between these two economic juggernauts,” Calhoun said. “I think it’s critically important.”

Boeing has implemented a safety management system in coordination with U.S. regulators as part of a top-to-bottom review in the aftermath of the Max crashes and 20-month grounding. The changes span internal processes, the use of data, pilot training and the science of how humans interact with machines.

“We’ve turned the place upside down,” Calhoun said.

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