Boeing urges U.S. to separate China trade and human rights

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(Reuters) – Boeing Co urged the United States on Wednesday to keep disputes over human rights and other topics separate from trade relations with Beijing, and warned that European rival Airbus would gain if the U.S. planemaker were locked out of China.

Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told an online business forum he believed a major aircraft subsidy dispute with Europe could be resolved after 16 years of wrangling at the World Trade Organization, but contrasted this with the outlook on China.

“I think politically (China) is more difficult for this administration and it was for the last administration. But we still have to trade with our largest partner in the world: China,” he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit.

Noting multiple disputes, he added: “I am hoping we can sort of separate intellectual property, human rights and other things from trade and continue to encourage a free trade environment between these two economic juggernauts….We cannot afford to be locked out of that market. Our competitor will jump right in.”

Boeing and Airbus each sell about a quarter of their jetliners to China, which has edged past the United States as the world’s largest domestic travel market.

Boeing began to face questions over its share of the Chinese market as the United States and China waged an 18-month trade war under former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Beijing increasingly also faces tensions with the West over its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang, and has warned foreign companies not to step into politics.

China rejects U.S. charges it has committed genocide against Uighur and other Muslims in the remote western region, where activists say more than 1 million are held in internment camps.

The White House and U.S. Trade Representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Calhoun’s remarks.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher and David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Alex Richardson)