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Taiwan To Buy Jets From Airbus

August 10, 1999

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Despite pressure from the United States, Taiwan’s China Airlines will sign a contract this week with Europe’s Airbus Industrie for seven A340 jets, the carrier said Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., met with Taiwan’s Transport Minister Lin Feng-cheng on Monday in an attempt to salvage China Airlines’ abandoned deal to buy 12 Boeing 777 passenger jets for $2 billion.

But Lin told Gorton the switch to Airbus aircraft was a business decision by the air carrier, unrelated to Taiwan’s political feud with China that has raised U.S. government concerns.

China Airlines will sign a contract with Airbus to buy the A340s on Thursday, with an option to buy five more, officials said. China Airlines also intends to buy seven A330 jets, but officials refused to say whether the deal will be signed Thursday as well.

The Airbus contract will come right after China Airlines signs a deal to buy 13 747-400 freighters from Boeing, with an option for four more, the air carrier said.

Boeing’s package is worth about $2.5 billion, while Airbus will be getting about $2 billion. The deals are among Asia’s largest in recent years.

Both Boeing and Airbus lobbied hard for the orders.

There has been speculation that China Airlines switched its order to Airbus so Taiwan’s government could retaliate against a toughened U.S. policy toward the island following President Lee Teng-hui’s recent controversial statehood claim.

But Taiwanese Premier Vincent Siew said Monday the government did not intervene, adding that U.S. lobbyists were scrambling to salvage the Boeing deal at least a month before Lee said July 9 that Beijing must deal with Taiwan on a ``state-to-state″ basis.

Taiwan and China split in a civil war in 1949, but China still claims sovereignty over the island.

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