French minister pressures Air France to buy Airbus planes

Air France planes and coaches are seen on the tarmac of the Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

JEREMY HOBSON: To France now where members of parliament have written a letter to Air France asking for a favor: Don't buy those foreign planes made by that American company Boeing. Buy local, buy Airbus.

Well that might sound harmless -- but as our European Correspondent Stephen Beard reports, it could re-ignite a trade battle between Europe and the U.S.

STEPHEN BEARD: Air France is about to order 100 jets worth more than $20 billion. French lawmakers says they've learned the airline wants to buy the planes from Boeing. But the lawmakers argue France's national carrier should go with Airbus and protect thousands of Airbus jobs in France. The French government -- the largest single shareholder in Air France -- has now got involved. A trade minister will shortly meet the airline chief. Press reports suggest the minister will lean heavily on him to buy Airbus.

Aviation analyst Howard Wheelden says another transatlantic trade war could be looming.

HOWARD WHEELDEN: Air France should buy the aircraft it needs. It doesn't need government interference and if the French government does that then don't be surprised if there is retaliation in the U.S.

Air France currently has twice as many Boeing as Airbus planes in its long distance fleet. One French lawmakers complains: "This is Air France, not Air Boeing."

In London I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the London Bureau Chief, providing daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.


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