A large order of Airbus planes from China appears likely as French President Emmanuel Macron ends his visit in Beijing. French farmers have also hailed a deal to end China's 2001 embargo on French beef.
Macron said he had confirmation from Chinese President Xi Jinping that a contract would be "finalized shortly” for China to order 184 short-haul Airbus A320s.
French officials quoted by the French news agency AFP as Macron wrapped up his three-day visit accompanied by a large French business delegation said the 184 planes would be delivered to 13 airlines in 2019 and 2020.
At Airbus list prices for the single-aisle planes, the deal could be worth at least €15 billion ($18 billion).
Macron added that France and China also had "ambitions" for sales of Airbus's longer-range A350 and its large but hard-to-sell A380 "in the weeks and months to come."
"President Xi confirmed to me that China will maintain the volume of orders in the coming years and preserve parity with the market shares of Airbus and [US rival] Boeing," Macron said at a news conference.
US rival Boeing sold 300 jets last November during a visit by President Donald Trump as China splits orders to cope with airline traffic as middle-class aspirations grow.
China also placed a large order for 140 Airbus jets during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Germany last July.
On Tuesday, Airbus, based in Toulouse, signed a provisional deal to increase the output of A320s at its China assembly plant in Tianjin from four to six planes per month by 2020.
French beef producers upbeat
Meanwhile, French beef producers hailed a deal reached during Macron's visit that China would end its embargo on French beef imposed in 2001 after Europe's "mad cow" disease scare of the late 1990s.
"Excellent news for France's beef producers, who consider the potential of the Chinese market a strategic opportunity," said France's producers' association Interbev.
Ninety percent of China's beef imports come currently from Brazil, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand.
French livestock economist Jean-Marc Chaumet said for French producers the market opening "won't be an Eldorado" because of a "very competitive market."
"And, they'll need to invest, because the Chinese don't know about French beef," Chaumet added.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who was among Macron's delegation, said the deal would "better compensate" French cattle ranchers facing a reduction in French beef consumption.
Beyond beef, French officials said talks were continuing with China about its ban on French poultry, imposed in 2015 after an outbreak of bird flu.
Coordinated European approach
During Macron's visit, French power group Areva signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Nuclear Corp for cooperation in nuclear waste processing.
Macron began his visit on Monday bent on pursuing deals that would help France reduce its $36 billion (€30 billion) trade deficit with China.
He also urged European nations to take a more "coordinated approach" on trade with China.
ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)