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Boeing CEO hints at higher jet output, optimistic on China

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PARIS/WASHINGTON — Boeing Co Chief Executive Dave Calhoun pointed toward future increases in narrow-body jet production and voiced hopes that an upcoming visit to China by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would lead eventually to “robust” plane orders.

Asked on Bloomberg TV on Tuesday whether plans to open a new 737 MAX assembly line in Boeing’s Everett, Washington, plant represented a “down-payment on higher production,” Calhoun said “yes,” but did not give estimates beyond Boeing’s existing target for 50 jets a month from its current 31 MAX production rate.

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Blinken is planning a Feb. 5-6 trip to China, the White House has said.

Boeing has 138 737 MAX airplanes in inventory for Chinese carriers but has been unable to deliver them amid U.S. China geopolitical tensions. Calhoun said last week China will “need the MAX” to meet demand.

“So now all of a sudden (demand) is coming back fast and they need airplanes. First and foremost, we’ve got to get the airplanes they already own back in the air,” Calhoun told Bloomberg TV of Chinese carriers 737 MAX planes.

“Then the second step is return to delivery, which the airplanes that are on our tarmac waiting to be delivered to China. So then we try to move down that path and then hopefully, hopefully we get a robust pipeline in China as well.”

In September, Calhoun said Boeing would begin to remarket some 737 MAX jets earmarked for Chinese customers. Calhoun said last week that effort to remarket planes was on pause “until we understand completely where China wants to go.” (Reporting by Tim Hepher and David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)

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