Trump effuses over Boeing, a winner in China trade deal

US President Donald Trump speaks before signing a trade agreement between the US and China. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - After months of trouble, Boeing got a vote of confidence on Wednesday (Jan 15) from President Donald Trump, whose new China trade agreement is in part designed to boost the embattled company.

"It's a great company!" Trump said of Boeing at a signing ceremony for the US-China trade agreement attended by Boeing chief executive David Calhoun, who officially began as CEO on Monday.

A Boeing board member since 2009, Calhoun was tapped as CEO in December when Boeing ousted Dennis Muilenburg, who was widely criticised for his handling of the 737 Max crisis after two deadly crashes.

Trump offered a strong endorsement of Calhoun, asking him to stand during the ceremony and saying Boeing's travails are "not his fault. He just got there."

"You'll straighten it out quickly, please? I have no doubt."

Under the agreement, China must buy US$200 billion (S$270 billion) more in US goods over two years than it did in 2017 before the trade war erupted, according to the agreement signed on Wednesday. These include about US$78 billion in manufactured goods such as aircraft.

Calhoun applauded the trade agreement, saying "Boeing has a long-standing partnership with China that spans nearly 50 years," according to a statement from Boeing.

"We're proud that Boeing airplanes will continue to be a part of this valued relationship, one that has fueled aerospace innovation and sustained manufacturing jobs," Calhoun added.

Wednesday's ceremony marked a "Phase One" trade deal that called off some US tariffs, but kept in place other levies as the two sides negotiate a deeper agreement.

Boeing has delivered nearly 1,600 planes to Chinese carriers and has unfilled orders of 122 planes, including Max orders to several Chinese carriers, according to Boeing's website.

Boeing has delivered no new Max planes since the March grounding.

A Boeing spokesman did not have an immediate comment on how uncertainty around the Max affects the provisions of the trade agreement.

Boeing has been in crisis mode since March after two crashes killed 346 people and led to the grounding of the company's top-selling plane.

Some analysts have questioned Calhoun's appointment, given his lengthy service on the board.

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