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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005, 18:26 GMT
Airbus and China strengthen ties
Airbus A320
The A320 is the workhorse of Airbus plane production
The Chinese government and Airbus have signed a co-operation agreement which could see the European aircraft maker assembling some planes in China.

The pact came as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao toured an Airbus assembly plant at the firm's headquarters in Toulouse.

Mr Wen is expected to sign orders for 70 Airbus aircraft worth $5bn (2.8bn) during his official visit to France.

The deal could eventually lead to Airbus assembling some of its smaller A320 single-aisle jets in China.

The company said it would carry out a feasibility study to establish whether it should build an alternative assembly point for A320 planes in China.

More orders

"One in six planes sold this year will go to China," said Airbus China chief Laurence Barron.

"Next year that will be one in five. We have 30% of their fleet now and hope that will rise to 50% in coming years."

The co-operation agreement was signed in Toulouse by Airbus chief executive Gustave Humbert and the deputy head of China's national development and reform commission, Zhang Xiaoqiang.

French aerospace bosses are also hoping to land orders from China for helicopters and space equipment during Mr Wen's three-day visit.

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